Like the bygone days of the horse-drawn carriage, the era of the MP3 player has quickly faded into the past. Today, the smartphone is the portable music device of choice for most of us and the iPod is now just a footnote in Apple's history, outlived by the iPhone and iPad.
The MP3 player isn't dead, though. There is still one habitat left for these technological buffaloes: the gym. Yes, as cool as your smartphone may be, there's no app that is going to prevent it from smelling like an old sock if you keep it in your gym bag. You need something light, small, useful, and cheap enough that you won't cry uncontrollably if it gets trampled on. Luckily, SanDisk has you covered.
SanDisk's Sansa Clip players have long topped CNET's lists of affordable and gym-worthy MP3 players. The latest spin on the Clip formula is called the Clip Zip. Like 2009's Sansa Clip+, the Clip Zip has a starting price of $49 for 4GB or $69 for an 8GB model. This time around, though, SanDisk is offering the device in seven different colors (red, blue, black, orange, white, gray, and purple) and has upgraded to a larger, full-color screen.
Don't let the new name or extra colors fool you, the Clip Zip's design isn't a far cry from the Sansa Clip+, or even the original Sansa Clip. There's a four-way navigation pad on the front with a separate back button floating above it. On the sides you'll find a volume rocker switch, Micro-USB port, headphone jack, and a microSDHC card slot that can support up to 32GB of additional memory.
The back, naturally, features an integrated clip that helps attach the device to your clothing and leaves your hands free for working out, or generally kicking butt. The clip is a bit longer than the iPod Nano's, though the all-plastic design isn't as resilient.
Really, the headline feature here is the 1.1-inch LCD color screen, which does a much better job of displaying information than the smaller, more limited screens of previous models. There are no options for viewing photos or videos, but album art is supported (though a little grainy looking).
No, the Clip Zip isn't going to play Angry Birds or update your Facebook status, but it does an exceptionally good job of distracting your brain with music. In fact, you'll have a hard time finding an MP3 player that works with more music formats, especially in this price range. SanDisk even came around to our suggestion of adding AAC compatibility, rounding out its support for MP3, WMA, DRM-WMA, FLAC, Ogg Vorbis, and Audible files. The company's even optimized this little thing for the Rhapsody and Napster music subscription services.
An FM radio is included, along with the expected array of auto-preset detection and FM radio recording. You can't do the radio pausing trick of the iPod Nano, but at half the price, who's complaining?