Previously confined to PCs and a few peripherals, Wi-Fi is the latest “It” technology among the MP3 player set. The wireless protocol has been seen partying in creatively named gadgets such as Tao, MusicGremlin, and some player from Microsoft. There are even rumors it might score the ultimate trophy and hook up with the iPod soon.
But Wi-Fi’s “Mr. Right Now” is SanDisk’s Sansa Connect. The slim 4GB flash player can wirelessly connect to the Internet so you can download tunes directly without having to deal with your PC. Getting the feed is even easier than other Wi-Fi players I’ve tried, so it gets points there. Of course, there’s always a catch, and here it’s called Yahoo.
If you want music on tap, you’re going to need a Yahoo ID (free, easy) and a Yahoo Music subscription account (not so free and takes some setting up… on a PC). Once your account is established—it costs $5.99/month for PC-only access or $11.99/month if you also want to transfer music to a portable player—downloading the latest hits is easy—as long as you’re in a hotspot.
The Wi-Fi also lets you do things like find other Connect owners nearby (learn to love the number 0), recommend songs to them (forget about sharing), and instant message friends (using, of course, Yahoo Messenger). Whoever threw these in sure knows how to take the “fun” out of the functions. At least you get a few decent Internet radio presets.
But before you do anything, the Connect needs attention from your PC. The software provided on CD-ROM is—surprise!—also from Yahoo. At least it’s mercifully easy to use and a nice change from Windows Media Player. Loading my existing library on the Sansa was a snap.
Sound came through loud and clear. Well, clear at least—I had to crank the volume way up if there was even a little ambient noise. I’m usually pretty easy on earbuds, but—I’m sorry—these are junk. Throw ’em away and get something else (see “Killer Earbuds”).
With good sound, controls, and software, the Connect doesn’t need Wi-Fi to be a decent MP3 player. And it’s a good thing, too—you’re forced to cozy up so close to Yahoo that it’s almost not worth it.
But if you are willing to make that commitment, SanDisk’s Sansa Connect can supercharge your portable music experience.