Memory giant Sandisk are leveraging their position as the world's largest supplier of flash cards to aggressively pursue Apple and their all-conquering iPod.
In a packed press conference here in Las Vegas, Sandisk launched two new MP3 players: the Sansa c100 and Sansa e200.
The baby Sansa c100
is the iPod Shuffle rival, available in 1GB (Sansa c140) and 2GB (Sansa c150) capacities, though Sandisk were quick to point out the areas where it eclipses Apple's cheapest model. While the Shuffle has no display at all, the c100 sports a funky 1.21-inch, 64,000 colour display which while small, is still streets ahead of existing monochrome LCD rivals. It can display album artwork or create a tiny slideshow of photos to accompany your tunes.
Not content with up to 32 hours of MP3 or 64 hours of WMA music, the c100 also features an FM tuner with a difference. As an adjunct to it's voice recording option, the c100 line has On-The-Fly recording of FM radio. If you hear your favourite chart track or maybe even just want to make a note of a telephone number from a radio ad, you can record directly to the Sansa.
The Sansa c100 series will be in stores in March priced $119.99 - $169.99. UK pricing is still to be confirmed.
It takes two to Sansa
Of perhaps greater interest to mobile music moguls is the Sansa e200
(pictured). This new model goes toe to toe with the recently launched iPod nano and again, Sandisk have worked hard to pack the player with features.
The obvious difference is the display: the nano has a 1.5-inch screen running at 176x132 pixels; the Sansa e200 series has a 1.8-inch TFT and 176x220 pixels - 66% more area. The width and height dimensions of the two units are nearly identical, though the Sansa is twice the nano's thickness at 13mm. This was described as "thin but not too
thin" by Sandisk and the emphasis of the scratch-resistant LiquidMetal back cover was a thinly veiled poke at the nightmares Apple has suffered with the nano's delicate casing.
As with the c100, the Sansa e200 can display photos, slideshows and album artwork on the screen and features the same FM tuner with record function. But wait, there's more!
The Sansa e200 features a microSD memory slot which can deliver several benefits. For one, you can buy additional flash memory to expand your total storage, but you can also use the removable card to transfer music and photos between your Sansa and other devices.
In one final dig at Apple, we were told the Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery is user-replaceable so that as its performance degrades over a year or two, it can be swapped out with another without customer suffering the indignation of being told to buy an entirely new player. It also presents the curious option of being able to travel with a second battery for twice the run time, though considering the Sansa is rated for 20 hours of playback (versus the nano's 14 hours), that may prove unnecessary.
The Sansa e200 series will be available 2GB (Sansa e250), 4GB (Sansa e260) and 6GB (Sansa e270) flavours in March priced between $199.99 and $299.99. This matches Apple in gigabyte per dollar, but given the extra features of the Sansa, any objective consumer might do well to avoid the fanboyisms and buy the Sandisk.
Place your bets now
: can Sandisk steal market share from the Apple? We rather suspect there could be a 6GB nano unveiled by Steve Jobs at next week's MacWorld