In Living Colour
Holding a Sansa Clip Zip in your hands, it feels like a Clip+ that's put on some weight. Four of the six buttons are now level with the surface, but it doesn't hinder the player's usability. We still wish the mini-jack weren't located on the side of the device, which isn't ideal for straight cable connectors. One pleasant new feature with the Zip is that it has replaced the mini-USB found on the Clip+ with a micro-USB connector. That means you can use smartphone chargers and USB cables on it. Highly practical.
The screen on the Clip+ was rectangular and monochrome. The Zip’s is square and in colour. The Clip Zip uses OLED technology, probably for low energy consumption. This has allowed SanDisk to equip it with a brand new interface. It’s easy to use, on the whole, with easily understandable and recognisable icons. That’s doubly practical because it’s not always easy to navigate through menus while you're jogging. That said, we wouldn’t go so far as to say that this is a major advancement over the previous model.
SanDisk offers a number of tips intended to simplify the user experience: you can add 32 GB of storage via the microSD slot, and the added content is automatically merged with the internal content in your music library; you can also navigate more quickly through your music by searching by “initials” instead of going song-by-song; and any icon you don’t use can be deleted from the main menu. All good ideas!
There’s been little to no change in the sound department since the previous generation: the audio hardware and software are very similar.
The Clip Zip supports MP3, AAC (DRM-free), FLAC, WMA and OGG files. That’s a wide gamut of compatibility that should cover most users’ needs. You would be well-advised not to over-compress FLAC files (stay under Level 5) so as not to kill the battery too quickly.
There’s not much we can say about the audio quality—it’s excellent. Naturally, the volume isn't as high as on larger-sized MP3 players and certain laptops, but it’s more than enough for a nomadic headphone. Even a number of smartphones and tablets couldn't maintain the same output voltage as the Zip. And the frequency response is as good as they come; the curve is flat on all ends of the spectrum.
The sound is exceptional to the ear, too. The signal is well-rendered, neutral and precise… That is, as long as you don’t use the earphones that come in the box, which are just as mediocre as on the previous models. But if you replace those with a better pair, the Zip becomes practically irreproachable.
The battery life on the Clip Zip is similar to the Clip+. It lasts around 10 hours, depending which file format you’re playing. It would be tough to do any better than that with such a small device anyways.
SanDisk has stayed on the right track with yet another high-quality portable MP3 player. There isn’t much about the Clip Zip that will convince Clip+ owners to chuck their + and buy a Zip—but if you don't already own a Sansa, we say go for it!