Back in January, SanDisk announced the Sansa Connect, a slick-looking flash MP3 player capable of hopping on open Wi-Fi networks and sharing songs with any other Connects anywhere. The device was sweet enough to garner a Best of CES award in the MP3 player category, and that was when we just had an inkling that a compatible service for cordless music acquisition was in the works. Now, the rumor has become a reality: SanDisk has partnered with Yahoo to offer its Yahoo Music Unlimited To Go service on the Connect, which means users can update music wirelessly from anywhere with an open Wi-Fi connection. This is a sweet feature indeed and will hopefully help to usher in a whole new era of wireless music. The Connect is not without a few irksome limitations, but there's no denying SanDisk is on the right track.
At $250, the Sansa Connect is priced on the high side for a 4GB device, but it's not unreasonable to pay a bit more for advanced technology. Plus, you can always add more memory via the built-in MicroSD slot--we certainly can't complain about expandable memory. We also can't complain about the player's design and interface. It's a slick little player with a nice-feeling black enclosure and a cute, stubby antenna poking out of the top, rather like those on a portable satellite radio device. Fortunately, the Connect is a bit more compact than such devices (the Pioneer Inno comes to mind) at 3.5 inches high by 1.8 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick. The 2.2-inch screen is nice and bright with good color saturation, and the icon-driven menus are fun and easy to navigate. We especially like the bubbly main menu selections that rotate in an arc across the lower portion of the screen when you hit the "Home" button.
Fortunately, the Connect's controls complement the interface nicely. Below the screen is a tactile scroll wheel, which can be clicked in four directions as well: "Up" activates the Home function, pulling up the main menu wheel at the bottom of the screen; "Down" starts and stops playback; and "Right" and "Left" serve to shuttle between menu levels and tracks. A dedicated volume rocker sits on the left spine, while the power button and a hold switch reside on the top. The bottom of the unit houses the proprietary USB port and the 3.5mm headphone jack. There's even a built-in speaker on the rear of the device--of course, you just get mono audio out of it, but it's still a nice touch. The whole thing has a polished, high-quality feel that is uncharacteristic of most previous SanDisk devices, which are positioned as budget MP3 players.