Sandisk Sansa vs Apple iPod – And The Winner Is…

We purchased an identical set of Sandisk Sansa m240 (1GB) MP3 players in November, 2005. These alternatives to the iPods that most of the world has fallen in love with were less expensive than an iPod of the same capacity, and had some nice features such as an FM radio and voice recorder.

I had problems with the m240s as soon as I started loading music onto them. There were two issues in particular that were particularly problematic. Some album tracks would play in the wrong order (with shuffle turned off), and when I loaded a large number of albums or audiobooks, many files would disappear. They were there when you viewed the contents of the players via a PC, but once you disconnected the sansa from the computer, it could not find the tracks. The shuffled track issue might not be the end of the world when you’re listening to your favorite album, but it is unacceptable when you are listening to audiobooks. Some audiobooks have more than 1,000 tracks, each of which are a few minutes long.

I communicated the problems I was having to Sandisk’s tech support people, who assured me that firmware updates would solve my problems. They did not. I went back and forth with Sandisk via their website, via e-mails and by phone over a period of about six months. I spent hours upon hours editing the ID3 tags in the albums, podcasts and audiobooks I was loading onto the Sansa, to no avail. It did not matter whether files were .mp3 or other formats. The Sansa would still shuffle some tracks. I tried applying several firmware updates. I tried resetting the Sansa. I tried loading different files. I tried using a different USB cable. Nothing helped.

Dealing with their support people was frustrating and infuriating at times. They seemed to be in denial when it came to the issues I was reporting, despite the fact that I found other Sansa owners on the Web who posted identical issues with their Sansas. I would provide Sandisk with details on how to reproduce the problems I was experiencing, but couldn’t get them to acknowledge the problems. They had me doing things that they should have been doing themselves, like preparing sets of test files and sending them to their tech support people. I also came away from the experience questioning whether Sandisk designed and produced the Sansa product line in-house, or whether they are branding someone else’s players with the Sandisk name. I say this because Sandisk seemed to be unable to address problems with the Sansa. It seemed to me like they may be dependent on a third party for resolving those issues. Overall, I would rate Sandisk’s support as poor.

I guess they finally had enough of my calls and support requests, because a senior technician that I was dealing with finally acknowledged they did not have a fix for the problems. They offered to replace my players with another Sansa model, the e250 (2GB), which they assured me would solve the problem. I took them up on their offer, but while I was waiting for them to send me the replacement Sansas, I found reports that owners of those Sansas had posted to various websites, indicating that there were problems with the
Sansa e200 series also. (Actually, Sandisk doesn’t even handle product returns. They have you send the defective products to a third party.)

When I received the replacement players, I decided to sell both of them rather then open the packages and see for myself whether I’d have the same problems with the e250′s as I did with the m240′s. I had little faith in their tech support, and just wanted to find another brand of MP3 player that worked correctly. I was not impressed with the quality of Sandisk’s support, and upset about the amount of time wasted trying unsuccessfully to resolve the problems with their product.

I’ve always been an IBM-compatible PC and Microsoft DOS/Windows computer user. I’ve never owned or used an Apple Macintosh, but I was aware that Mac devotees consider Windows-based PCs to be inferior to the Mac. Status symbols have never been real important to me. I also tend to root for the underdog, whether it’s in politics or MP3 players. I don’t like to pay a premium just so I can have the most popular brand of anything. On the other hand, I knew there were reasons why people love their iPods, and I knew that the iPod’s popularity wasn’t just because of the Apple mystique, but because of the design superiority of Apple products.

I considered buying one of the Microsoft Zune MP3 players which had just been released, but was unimpressed with them. I thought the (first generation) Zune was expensive, large, ugly, received lukewarm reviews, and it was (at the time) version 1.0 of a Microsoft product, which I’ve previously mentioned should always be avoided.

 

ipod-nano-2nd-gen.jpg

I ended up buying a second generation Apple iPod nano (2GB) in November, 2006. I feel like kicking myself for not buying an iPod in the first place. I’ve had no significant problems with the nano in the year since I bought it. Sure, there are some minor problems I’ve come across, mostly involving Apple’s iTune’s software, rather than with the software inside the nano (the firmware). To be fair, there are iPod owners that have posted some serious problems on various websites, so the iPod is not completely problem-free. However, everything you read about the iPods are true. They have better user interfaces than the competition, whether it’s a scroll wheel model like the nano, or one of their newer touch screen devices such as the iPod touch. Apple is known for their superior design features and the materials they use in their devices, such as aluminum cases. I did give up the FM radio and voice recorder features of the Sansa, which the nano does not have, but I gained an audio player that works correctly. I would have preferred the nano to have an easily replaceable battery, but none of the iPods have easily user-replaceable batteries. Apple wants you to return the iPods to them for battery replacement, if it becomes necessary. Fortunately, there are alternatives… do-it-yourself replacement battery kits, and third party service companies that do iPod repairs and battery replacements.

Now, I want one of the new third generation iPod nanos that play video, and come in memory capacities up to 8GB. Then again, the iPod touch would be even nicer. Maybe Santa will bring me one for Christmas. I guess Apple has spoiled me for anything else, because I would probably never consider purchasing another brand of audio or video player.

So, as you’ve figured out by now, in the Sansa vs iPod contest, as far as I’m concerned, the clear winner is: The Apple iPod.

Who knows… Maybe my next computer will be a Mac.

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3 Comments

Filed under Apple, Consumerism, iPod, iPod nano, iPod touch, Life, Microsoft, Money, mp3 players, Personal, Personal Tidbits, Portable music players, Routing by Rumor, Sandisk, Sandisk Sansa, Shopping, Technology, Your Money, Zune

3 responses to “Sandisk Sansa vs Apple iPod – And The Winner Is…

  1. Pingkai Liu

    I have used a number of sandisk sansa mp3 products including e280. I never had problem you’ve encountered. And beside you can rockbox it to get a lot of potential from.

    Apple does not have USB mode, so basically you need to use their itune to upload the music.

    - New York City

  2. Lee Angelo

    I too agree with you that Sansa is superior to ipod. I initially had issues with my Sansa e280 version 1 but sansa did not give me issues and send me [sic] a brand new one, which was version 2 and all problems solved. The sound quality of this device rivals the best of ipod, even the i phone does not have as good of sound quality as the Sansa e280 Version 2 or the Sansa fuze and clip. To get the very best out of your sansa you need to get a decent pair of headphones and it will bring the music to life :)

    - Kaneohe, Hawaii

    Reply from RoutingByRumor…

    Perhaps you should read our article one more time. With all the problems that we experienced with Sandisk support and the Sansa, it is simply incredible that anyone could come to the conclusion that you have reached. We would never waste our time or money buying another music player from Sandisk. In our opinion, it is an inferior product with poor technical support.

  3. ash

    Meh, my iPod constantly locked up, and suffered odd artifacts on the screen after only a month of use at my desk, from where it never moved. Apple took it, sat on it for nearly a month, and sent it back with the exact same problems.

    I replaced it with a Sansa Fuze which has worked flawlessly. So then what? My experience contradicts yours, does that mean Sansa’s are automatically better?

    My experience with Sandisk has also been positive as well, while my dealings with Apple have been horrible, as one of our labs at work is a Mac for testing purposes. You have to understand that Apple, unlike PC’s and other products, is a closed market. There is no third party support, and they are content screwing you because you don’t have an option if you want to use their products. You have to use accessories provided or authorized by them. You can’t go buy a Dell Mac or a Gateway Mac or even build your own, it has to be theirs. I could go on and on, but I assure you a closed market benefits no one but the company that controls it.

    Running my finally repaired iPod through a studio mixer and my Fuze by its side, it’s also worth noting that the Fuze has a greater output range by a significant amount. Frankly, as near as I can tell, Apple is happy to overcharge because they’re part of a fad, while providing a lesser product. It’s unfortunate they have you fooled, but I assure you that we aren’t all fooled.

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