As I've written previously, I'm a fan of the new crop of Windows Media music players, in particular the Sandisk Sansa m240, with a gigabyte of storage, USB 2.0, an FM radio and long battery life from a rechargeable AAA battery. (Bonus feature: when you dock with your PC via USB to move new content on to the Sandisk player, you also recharge the battery! if you have installed a AA rechargeable.) Now, PC Magazine has a review of the new Sandisk Sansa e260 player...

"Why make MP3 players in an iPod world?  According to a SanDisk rep I talked to over a year ago, it's because they can do it cheaper and better - because they make the memory chips themselves!  Now, finally, that boast has become true with the new e260.  This amazing new player offers great features, wonderful style, and good ease of use.

"The SanDisk Sansa e260 is a seriously sexy MP3 player that represents a very strong effort on SanDisk's part to compete in the premium market against Apple's iPod nano."

This new PlaysForSure compatible device received the same high rating (4 1/2 out of 5) as the Apple iPod Nano, yet it didn't garner an Editor's Choice award.

IMHO, that is an oversight.

I had a chance to play with one of these players over the weekend and found it easy to use and very high quality. In addition, Sandisk provides a photo viewer and an FM radio, both features I would use in a multifunction device. It's available in 2GB and 4GB models, and also as a 6GB model: the first time we've seen such a configuration. Unlike PCMag's findings, I found the playlist to be straight-forward and the buttons providing a good feel and response. As for WMA lossless support, that's not something I look for in a portable device as I'm usually in less than a critical listening situtation (car, airplane or even the office). I will agree that having a single app to handle loading of music and photos would be best, perhaps either via a drag-and-drop folder interface or through the more comprehensive Windows Media Player 11.

I'll venture guess that it's not long until we see a video viewer in this small form factor: my hope is that one will be available for end of year 2006 holiday gift giving. With many one hour shows (44 minutes edited) transcoding down to less than 100MB to my Smartphone and PPC, I could just about fit a season's worth of primetime shows from my Media Center to a 4GB device like the Sansa... and still have room for more than 100 hrs of music in Windos Media Audio format. If this type of a product were to come to market -- perhaps with a larger battery -- that would be a 5 out of 5 in my book.

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