Why is everyone enslaved by Apple's iPod? Through its combination of stylish design and smart marketing, it seems to have convinced the vast majority of people that it's the only MP3 player worth considering. I've never been convinced – mainly because I don't want to be tied into the way Apple's iTunes music market does things.
That's why I've embraced SanDisk's Sansa Clip MP3 players. The original Clip Zip was compact, efficient, and well-featured, only really lacking a colour display and a choice of case colours. The latest version makes good on both those features and adds a whole lot more.
Available in a range of eye-catching colours, the Sansa Clip Zip 4GB is the size of a box of matches, and has a spring clip on the back for easy attachment to your clothing. It comes with a USB cable and a basic set of earphones, and as its name implies, has a 4GB internal memory, enough for around 1,000 songs.
On one side are the USB2/charge connection and volume control rocker; on the other, the standard earphone socket and slot for a MicroSD card with which you can expand the storage memory. Power button is on the top, and front panel controls consist of a standard cursor arrangement and central select button.
The 1.1-inch colour screen is bright and clear, showing menus and cover art clearly, and menu operations are fast and smooth. Content is divided into Music, Audiobooks, and Voice recordings, and there are menus for the FM radio functions, card settings and Sport features. These last include a stopwatch and a timer log function.
But it's the music player you'll use most; as you would expect, there are functions to sort tunes by artist, album, song, genre, rating, folder or playlist, and options to shuffle playback, delete songs, change podcast playback speed, and reset FM radio presets. A choice of equaliser and gain presets means you can tailor the sound to your liking, and (other than the obvious necessity of immediately getting better headphones), I don't think you could criticise the playback quality.
The battery takes around 3 hours to charge fully and last for around 15 hours, though this of course depends on whether you are using features like voice recording.
I like to keep my gadgets separate, so I'm a firm believer in having a phone, a digital camera and an MP3 player all in their own little pouches, rather than build into one device which inevitably involves compromises.
The Sansa Clip Zip 4Gb does what it does very well, does it at a reasonable price and doesn't pretend to do anything else. So if you're ever out with your iPod and you see someone smiling smugly to themselves, it could be because they've bought a Sansa Clip Zip instead...