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

Follow Rob @beschizza on Twitter.
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