Sansa slotRadio Player – Computer Free MP3 Enjoyment

Posted by at 1:38 pm on May 1, 2009

If you own an MP3 player then you may have run into those situations where you are away and unable to update your player until you can sync to with the mother ship.   Freeing the player from the computer is also an issue for those who would like to have a way to listen to audio, but don’t want to deal with a computer to manage it with.

SanDisk has introduced the slotMusic concept, with players that use microSD cards to store and play back audio files.   With slotMusic players your tunes are once again free from your computer.   If you want some different tunes you simply pop in a new card and off you go.   The latest entry in the line, the Sansa slotRadio player, combines those features with an FM tuner in a pocket friendly package that is designed to remove all the complication from portable music.

The slotRadio we checked out here at TOT is the Billboard edition that comes with a microSD card pre-loaded with 1000 songs.   The songs are grouped into several play lists including: Rock, R&B/HipHop, Alternative, Country, Contemporary, Workout and Chillout.   In radio mode, the   SlotRadio can display RBDS, so it will display call letters, track name, and artist on a 1.5″ black and white OLED screen that the station broadcasts along with its audio.

The player controls are simple.   There’s a sliding switch to toggle the player on to either Radio or MP3 mode.   The switch has a lot of resistance as you slide it into place.   It fairly easy to click it with a long fingernail, but much more difficult with the pad of your finger.   It won’t get moved while the player rolls around in your pocket, but you also have to make a concentrated effort to move the switch from one mode to another.

The small play button on the right side has different functions in each mode. In MP3 mode, the play button will switch you to the next song in the play list you are listening to.   Holding the button down for a moment longer will pause the sound.     In radio mode, the play button will create a station in your preset list when you push it.   The volume is controlled by two buttons on the left side.

On the face of the player, under the screen are a left arrow and a right arrow.   Pressing the arrows scrolls the player through the various playlists.   When the player is in MP3 mode you can go back and forth between playlists but once in a playlist you can only navigate through it in one direction-forward only.   We found this to be a flaw. What if I want to hear the song  over again?   A similar issue is that the player has no shuffle mode, a common feature among other MP3 players.

The 1.5″ OLED screen displays playlist/song information when the player is in MP3 mode.   When the player is radio mode it even supports RBDS, a system station used to display text such as call letters, track name, artist info, etc along with the audio.

Because it is  OLED, the screen is bright and clear – very easy to read.   The slotRadio has a built in rechargeable battery that gives you many hours of playing time on a single charge.   It comes with a wall adapter for recharging, but you’ll want to be sure and keep track of the cable since it uses a custom USB port for the connection.   (a replacement or extra cable lists for $14.99) The unit also comes with a pair of earbud headphones that are in line with what you would expect for included earbuds as far as sound quality goes.   The shell of the player is die-cast aluminum, it seems to wear well and the screen does not show fingerprints excessively.

Accessories

There are lots of accessories for the slotRadio player, including a ballistic nylon case that holds the player, some extra cards and the accompanying ear buds in a space smaller than your fist.   It is called the SanDisk slotRadio Mini Travel Case, retails for $14.99 and comes in four colors.

The player ships with a clear silicon cover that will protect the finish of the player but still allows easy access to all of the controls.   It also has a built in belt clip that holds it firmly in place on you or your bag.   The packaging of the slotRadio is a small hinged plastic box that would make it easy for gift wrapping on Mother’s or Father’s day

SlotRadio Cards

As we mentioned earlier the big plus for slotMusic is the fact that you don’t have to have a computer to manage it.   The same goes for the slotRadio cards, but there are some differences. The 1000 song microSD card that comes with the slotRadio player is kind of like having an internet music service on a card.   The play list acts   similar to the rules that govern internet music services like Pandora or Slacker. You can only move  forward through the play list you are in, so you can’t repeat a song you have just listened to.   We suspect this is due to the deal SanDisk had to strike with the music labels to get the price so low.

If you put the slotRadio card in your computer you do not have access to any of the music files so they can’t be removed, reordered or listened to.   But,  the play lists span a wide variety of music and the play lists are pretty well organized, so that should not be an issue for most people.   SanDisk has released 4 new genre specific 1,000 song cards for $39.99 each.   Find out more about the selection at http://www.slotradio.org/slotRadio/cards.

The slot radio cards can also be played by the Sansa Fuse players, but you may need to update the player’s firmware.   See the Sansa FAQ for details.

For the travel minded, BestBuy has put electronics vending machines into airports, the slotRadio would be a great addition to the selection. It is ready to use as soon as the buyer unpacks it, something that can’t be said for an iPod.

The Verdict

SanDisk has come up with a great concept with slotMusic, unchaining MP3 players from the computer, and making digital music even more portable and simple to own.   The slotRadio player takes this good idea and runs it nearly to the goal line.   We like the variety of music that you find on the microSD cards, the OLED screen, the compact size of the player, and the well thought out accessories. There are a couple features we would add but overall this player is especially great for anyone who doesn’t want to always be tethered to their computer to choose tunes for their portable music collection, or for those people who might find other MP3 players and their technology intimidating of a hassle.

Pros: No computer required, slotRadio cards a great deal, OLED screen

Cons: Unable to reverse to replay a track, No shuffle mode, USB plug on the unit is not as commonly found

Rating: 4 out of 5

1 Comment for “Sansa slotRadio Player – Computer Free MP3 Enjoyment”

  1. M. Jared

    This is an amazing idea for my mom! thanks!

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