Review: a day with slotRadio

sandisk-slotradio.jpg

Sansa’s slotRadio is a miniature music player that comes with 1,000 songs pre-installed on a MicroSD card. Larger than the iPod Shuffle but smaller than the Nano, it has a 1.5″ OLED display, an FM radio tuner, and only the most basic playback controls.

It has no internal memory of its own, and comes with a handful of accessories: a silicone protection sheath, a caddy to hold MicroSD cards, an AC-USB power adapter, and a free set of earbuds.

SlotRadio’s a well-made machine with a simple, no-nonsense interface. Jumping between playlists is easy and the controls are responsive. Sound quality is on par, but nothing fancy. Unfortunately, it can’t fast-forward or rewind within tracks, or even return to the previous song or the beginning of the current one: the songs are free, but the deal is that you have to listen to them in playlist order, like a selection of radio stations stuck on groundhog day. Your only options are to head to the next track or pause the current one: you can’t even browse a track listing.

The FM radio is particularly good, however, with a simple bookmarking trick and perfect reception.

It’s feels quite bulky, perhaps because of the belt clip and the large display, which doesn’t do much except run canned animations and show song info. Loading your own music onto it isn’t as convenient as normal players, either: you can only use MP3 or WMA files, and they’re stuffed by the player into a single playlist called “My Channel.”

The big caveat is that the free songs are in a custom format, can’t be seen by your computer, and will play only in slotRadios. They’re even placed on a hidden partition (!) on the MicroSD card, though this does avoid them getting wiped when you format the scant remaining space. SanDisk sells a selection of genre-specific MicroSD cards for $40 each.

With 1,000 free (albeit MOR) songs for just $100, the slotRadio’s a splendid gift for someone who doesn’t already have an MP3 player or isn’t a regular computer user. That said, the limitations make it a poor choice if you already have a digital music collection, compared to Sansa’s Clip or Fuze, or even a refurbished iPod Nano, all of which cost less than $100.

slotRadio [SanDisk]

About Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Email is dead, but you can try your luck at besc...@gmail.com
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9 Responses to Review: a day with slotRadio

  1. brianary says:

    #4:

    I prefer liberation from being tethered to a computer. And I retain the right to tailor my own playlist: the microSD card is only half-full (ready for me to add more songs to it), and/or can be (partially) copied to the main memory of my e280. No computer. No Internet access required.

    #7:

    I subscribe to several song-a-day podcasts to get a pretty constant flow of new stuff:
    * WFPK The Daily Feed
    * KEXP Song of the Day
    * MPR The Current Song of the Day
    * KCRW’s Today’s Top Tune
    * triple j new music podcast
    * CBC Radio 3 New Music Canada Track of the Day
    * NPR Second Stage Podcast
    If there were a better selection of slotMusic albums, I’d be able to buy albums from some of the artists I hear on these.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Why does nobody put DAB on these things?

  3. zandar says:

    #4,

    I prefer liberation from being tethered to a computer. And I retain the right to tailor my own playlist: the microSD card is only half-full (ready for me to add more songs to it)

    Wouldn’t you be loading new songs from a computer?
    Real liberating requires open wifi, most manufacturers are really hesitant to do that. probably because we’d all be looking for our own music instead of the artists that have deals for these slotmusic thingys.

    #6, wholeheartedly agree, thought it appears DAB is not being adopted (yet? ever?) so my guess it’s thusfar too niche-y.

  4. BCJ says:

    Finally, I’ve been waiting for a new MP3 player that sounds like it was made about a decade ago.

    It’s hard to even count how often I complain about my music not being in a propriatary format, the plethora of control options my MP3 player has, and how I really miss carrying lots of things around in order to listen to my music. Whenever I am on the go and want to listen to a song again, I just restart my playlist, and then press forward to get to the track; it’s nice to see a device that fully understands how much more convenient of a system that is. This sounds like a must-have.

  5. annoyingmouse says:

    I had Sandisk’s Sansa Express with micro-sd slot and the thing was a nightmare. Half the time it wouldn’t properly delete files from the card and required regular formatting, it wouldn’t play certain files if you put too many on and it stop working completely if you got too close to capacity. Although I think that last point might have been remedied in a firmware update (a surprising one since they discontinued the model after about five minutes and didn’t seem to care for doing updates to fix the numerous other glitches), the idea of them actually trying to provide the music for the user on a card fills me with dread. Then again even without my grievances with the company this slotRadio/slotMusic format is easily the most ridiculously pointless music “innovation” I have ever seen. It just highlights not only how ignorant, naive and greedy the major music companies are but also how desperate they have become.

  6. LightningRose says:

    I love my 16GB Sansa View, and my 8GB e280 before it, but this looks like a load of dreck.

  7. brianary says:

    I’m running Rockbox on a Sansa e200 (several of them, actually, since woot always has them so cheap), and I keep my podcasts on a microSD card, and can swap players quickly when the battery gets low.

    I bought the Elvis album on “slot” music. It comes with a cute, tiny little SD case with a sticker that looks like the album cover. I have to say I kind of like having a physical medium and no DRM and no need to convert it to something usable, since I can just put it in my player without using a computer at all.

  8. danilo says:

    This seems like SanDisk entirely missed the point of modern digital music players.

    Half of the MP3 revolution was the opportunity for liberation from the constraints of playlists made by other people. No one knows better than you what music you want to listen to. Not a radio DJ, not a record label and certainly not a hardware manufacturer. The lasting appeal of digital music is having a perfectly-tailored lineup of content that is endlessly tweakable and completely yours.

    This product is like taking the engine out of your Model T knockoff and strapping a horse to the front of it because you can’t figure out why no one is buying your cars. Maybe it’s because they like horses after all!

  9. Blaine says:

    #3

    I also have an e200 running RockBox and I’m absolutely enamored with the slotmusic cards. You can play it from the card or pop them in, copy and paste it to the main memory. It’s great to be able to walk into a store, purchase music and put it on my mp3 player immediately.

    I’m honestly more prone to trying new music and artists because, worst case scenario, I can always just erase the files and have another microSD card.

    Also, free microSD > USB adapter.

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