At 3.1 by 1.7 by 1 inches, the SanDisk Sansa m200 isn't the sleekest flash player around, but it's feathery light at 1.3 ounces with a AAA battery installed. Though the buttons are made of cheap-looking plastic, and the body feels flimsy, the overall presentation is solid. The Sansa m200 series has an ergonomically correct shape that flares in; you want to clutch it so that your thumb is on top of the five-way player controls, which include an A/B-repeat button and a center Select key. These buttons are big and tactile. Holding the Sansa m200 horizontally, you'll find the dedicated volume and power/menu buttons on the top and the hold switch and built-in pinhole microphone on the bottom. The headphone and standard USB jacks appear on the m200's true topside. Bundled accessories include passable earbuds, a carrying case, an armband, a battery, a USB cable, and software.
The only noticeable difference between models is the color. The 512MB SanDisk Sansa m230 ($80) comes in blue, the 1GB Sansa m240 ($120) in silver, the 2GB m250 ($160) in black, and the big daddy 4GB m260 ($200) in slate blue. As you can see, list prices are extremely attractive, with the 4GB version costing less than the 4GB iPod Nano. Street prices will be even less. While the Nano is clearly more attractive and can display photos, it lacks the Sansa m200's FM tuner, subscription compatibility and voice recorder.
The m200 plays MP3, WMA, DRM WMA (including subscription-based music), and Audible file formats. The only major feature missing is line-in recording, and you can make voice recordings in only one mediocre quality setting. The FM tuner has 20 preset stations and an autoscan feature. You can browse the m200's music library by title, artist, album, genre, spoken word, and recordings, and it supports playlists as well as an on-the-go Favorites playlist of up to 30 songs. The main menu includes Play Music, FM Radio, Recorder, and Settings, and overall navigation is logical and easy, thanks in part to the big controller buttons. The blue-backlit LCD shows artist, song, and album info as well as file format, bit rate, and elapsed time, but the blue backlight could be a bit brighter and provide more contrast. We'd also like to see a bookmarking feature for audiobooks. You also get a stopwatch, though.
Sound quality is similar to that of past SanDisk players and definitely not the best we've heard, but most people will be satisfied. The equalizer settings (Pop, Classical, Jazz, Rock, and a custom five-band EQ) help shape the sound to your liking. The SanDisk Sansa m200 cooperates well with Windows Media Player 10 and subscription-based applications such as Napster To Go; it works without a hitch via drag and drop in Windows Explorer, even automatically organizing your files. Though there are other low-cost flash options for subscription services, the m200 series offers the best deal so far. Also, the m200 series shows up as a drive in Mac OS X. Battery life from a single AAA battery is rated for 19 hours, which is decent but not great for a flash player; remember to stock extra batteries. CNET Labs was able to coax only 18.5 hours out of the m200 series. Transfer time over USB 2.0 was on the poor side at 1.1MB per second.