In search of a good replacement for iPod: my SanDisk Sansa Clip+ review

After switching to Linux as my default desktop/laptop OS years ago, the one unsolved issue for me was effectively managing my iPods. Due to Apple's closed nature and insistance on tightly controlling the user experience, managing iPods with anything other than iTunes is an ongoing pain. So in early 2013, I set out to find a replacement player.

Device selection criteria

  • Works well with Linux. Really what I'm looking for is being platform agnostic. The player should mount as a normal file system via a common interface like USB on any modern OS.
  • Not be tied to a single library management applicaiton. Looking at you Apple, with your damned iTunes. I want to be able to simply rsync music files from a computer without having to launch a GUI application every time I want to add/remove songs.
  • Supports a wide range of music formats. Because of its age, my music library is a mix of CBR/VBR MP3, AAC and FLAC.
  • Fits in my H2O Audio armband waterproof case.
  • Under a 100 bucks would be nice.
  • Preferably not a touch screen display. Tactile navigation buttons work better with a waterproof case like the one I got -- where the device is operated through a soft, transparent plastic screen.
  • Hardware supported by Rockbox. This wasn't the biggest priority, because if the stock firmware worked fine, I'd just stick with that -- my needs are fairly simple.

After much research, I decided to try the Sansa Clip+. It's been about six months, by now I got three of them (two 4GB models and one 8GB). One of the 4GB ones is almost full time in my waterproof case to listen to during wakeboarding. The 8GB model is to play in the boat for others to listen to while I'm wakeboarding, also in the truck before launching the boat, and in the car while driving around. The second 4GB is currently missing, hopefully it'll turn up one of these days, if not, loosing a $30 player is not a huge deal. :-)

SanDisk Sansa Clip+ pros

  • Cheap ($30-$50, depending on capacity).
  • Brain dead simple firmware update. See my post on Sansa Clip+ firmware update process.
  • Well supported by Rockbox. Rockbox installer supports Linux/Mac/Windows and is very easy to use, even for not very technical folks. See my post on installing Rockbox on Sansa Clip+.
  • Platform agnostic, use a library application of your choice (e.g. Amarok, Rhythmbox, Clementine, Winamp, SanDisk Media Manager, etc), or just manage music files directly using a file manager.

SanDisk Sansa Clip+ cons

  • Small capacity. Comes with either 4GB or 8GB built in. Can be expanded with up to a 32GB microSD or microSDHC card. I haven't tried it, but others have reported being able to use 64GB microSDXC cards. Not a big issue for me since considering the miniscule price, I can buy multiple players, combined with rotating multiple cards. Also, I use my Android phone to play music.
  • Stock firmware froze when playing certain files. Solved by switching to Rockbox, which is better anyway, especially if you're an audiofile and like to tinker.
  • Small screen, can be hard to read if you have bad vision. I don't have great vision, but it works fine for me. Just have to bring it close to my face to read the smallest type (old man problems). :-)

2 Comments

  • 1. Yuv replies at 6th February 2014, 8:36 pm :

    bringing it close to your face to read the smallest type is the opposite of old man’s problem (presbyopia). just an excuse for somebody close to your age (inference from your resume) to say hi and thanks for the useful information. Keep on rocking, young man!

  • 2. Alain Kelder replies at 7th February 2014, 2:17 am :

    Yuv,

    Thanks for the laugh! You are correct of course. As someone who’s been near sighted since childhood, I should know this. :-)

    Cheers,
    Alain

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