Thursday, September 3, 2009

Goodbye Rio Cali Sport, Hello Sansa Clip [Reviews]

When I roll, I like having tunes.

My iPod is on the fritz, but even if it were working, it was never good workout partner. With an optical hard disk, bouncing around on a bike or hitting the gym never seemed like a smart idea.

So for the past 5 years, I've relied on my Rio Cali Sport. It was a basic barebones MP3 player and FM Tuner. Flash memory and no moving parts meant I could bounce it around all I wanted but with only 256mb of memory, I had to choose songs carefully. I was surprised by how reliable it was. It never skipped a beat, despite heavy use and tough conditions. And then one day...

I was flying down Table Mesa from NCAR on my mountain bike, rocking to the beats. Suddenly the sound stopped as the Cali rattled its way out of the arm band. The next thing I knew, it fell and was skittering along the asphalt at 40mph.

I gathered up the battered pieces and the Rio appeared intact. Only the battery cover and battery had been ejected. When I got home, I put in a new battery to test it and unfortunately it froze up. I took it apart, hoping to find something easy to fix. No dice. My much loved Rio Cali Sport was toast.

Because the Cali had been so durable, I looked online for another but it appears Rio isn't in this business now. So my next stop was eBay where I found several used Cali's with Buy It Now prices of ~$30 + shipping. I decided to do a little research before buying one. I considered several different options but after reading rave reviews, I chose a matchbox size 4GB Sansa Clip from B&H for $49 (including shipping).

So here's my new Clip next to my dead Rio Cali Sport:

So far, I'm impressed with it. The sound quality is awesome and this thing is tiny. THe battery life is very good and the built in clip makes it easy to attach to any article of clothing.

Caveats: For it to work properly, I had to upgrade Windows Media Player, otherwise it wouldn't recognize the Clip. After playing around a bit, I discovered Winamp (yes, that Winamp) is a good option for managing it. Winamp has an intuitive interface and made it easy to create playlists for drag and drop. The Clip supports DRM, so it's compatible with Audible. I went ahead and loaded a few books on it, no problems.

Two thumbs up for the initial experience on the Sansa.

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