If you prefer the McDonald’s dollar menu to dining at the Ritz, Friday night TV movies to Broadway shows, and big blocks of Velveeta to imported French Brie, then the SanDisk Sansa e130 is the perfect audio player for you. Just don’t ask it to deliver top-drawer audio quality or usability.
There’s a lot to like about the Sansa e130. It’s among the lightest players we’ve tested. It handles a wide variety of file formats. There’s a built-in FM tuner. And despite its low price, it comes with accessories that most manufacturers make you pay extra for, including an arm strap, a cheap protective vinyl pouch, and a variety of different-size tips for the earbuds.
An SD slot lets you expand the player’s capacity beyond its internal 512MB, and if you’ve preloaded a card with music, the Sansa will automatically create a new playlist that includes audio files on both the card and the internal memory.
Unfortunately, sound quality is not great, with slight but noticeable background hiss and a tendency to distort higher frequencies. Bass response is lightweight, despite the audio-enhancing electronics. The interface is clunky and occasionally slow, and the Sansa e130’s lightweight plastic casing screams chintz at the top of its lungs.
Still, for just $75, you may be willing to overlook these limitations. Stuff the player in your thrift-store corduroys, jam the white headphones into your ears, and from a distance you’ll look just like any other iPod-wearing poseur. Unless you’re spotted standing in the soup kitchen line, that is. -Dylan Tweney
Best Feature: Easily expandable via SD slot
Worst Feature: Flimsy construction and substandard audio
SanDisk Sansa e130
Weight: 1.8 ounces
Size: 2.9 x 2.1 x 0.5 inches
Specs: 512MB; 1.3-inch LCD; plays MP3, WAV, and WMA audio; SD slot; FM tuner; USB 2.0; uses one AAA battery
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Link: SanDisk Sansa e130
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