SanDisk Sansa e130 $135
2.125 x 3 x .5 inch, 1.875 ounces (with SD card and battery) · sandisk.com
Target iPod shuffle
Memory 512 MB (1-GB model also available for $190)
Formats supported MP3, WMA
Secret weapon SanDisk is known primarily as a maker of blank media, so it's no surprise that it's outfitted the Sansa with an SD card slot. Cards currently go up to 2 gigs, so if you're willing to drop an extra couple of C notes on a card, your Sansa's guts will trounce the iPod shuffle's, which max out at 1 GB. And that's no-moving-parts flash memory, folks, making it virtually unskippable. The Sansa also has a screen, the mere existence of which gives it an edge over the littlest Pod.
Extra ammo The 3-inch installation CD can install software from Rhapsody.com for managing music, AudioFeast.com for downloading Internet radio programs to your player, and Audible.com for audio books. But if you want to avoid all the sales pitches, you might be better off using WMP10 - unwieldy as it is - or simply transferring songs manually. The Sansa also packs an FM radio and a semi-extraneous stopwatch.
Weak spot The little Sansa isn't quite little enough. It's roughly twice the width of the Pez dispenser-size iPod shuffle and a bit thicker, too. Size is critical for flash players, since they should be inviting to the gym crowd. But even though the Sansa comes with workout-friendly perks like a plastic sleeve and a Velcro armband, its overall design will leave you coveting the perfectly sleek shuffle. Plus its reliance on a AAA battery feels like a throwback to the pre-iPod era.
Mission report Killed in action. The Sansa's SD card slot just isn't enough to overpower the shuffle's unbeatable form factor.
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