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SanDisk slotRadio Review


The new SanDisk slotRadio is an unusual audio player. For just under $100 you get an MP3 player that comes bundled with a slotRadio microSD card that packs in 1000 songs. This player isn’t really an iPod competitor, it’s not about packing in the latest technology and features, but rather it’s all about value for your money and ease of use. It’s also one of the few digital audio players to ever come with music straight out of the box, and in this case it’s packing a ton of music.

In the Box:
The slotRadio comes with some typical accessories: a silicon protective case, a USB cable, ear phones, and AC adapter for your electrical outlet. The other end of the AC adapter attaches to the USB cable. Nothing here is especially out of the ordinary, but including a protective case is appreciated. Of course included is the slotRadio itself and a slotRadio microSD with preloaded songs.

The SanDisk slotRadio is a little bit bigger than the iPod shuffle and even has a metal clip attached to the back of it for easy attachment to your jeans or jacket. The casing is metal and the display is comprised of a black and white LCD and directionals to scroll through songs in either in forward or reverse. The top of the player has a switch to power it on, select either FM Radio or play your MP3s.  There is also the slot to insert your microSD card. On the front face of the player, the right side of the player has a next button for songs in a playlist while the left side of the player has two volume buttons (+ -). The bottom of slotRadio has a USB connection and an input for your headset. Overall the design is very simple and lightweight and you could easily slip this into your pocket or clip it on to your shorts and forget it’s even there.

The menu has a few simple but cool animations which jazz up the player but they are only in black and white. Operating the device is very easy and won’t take too much to get used to. But other then that the slotRadio’s design is very simple and so is its feature set. I was very impressed with the FM radio feature. I was able to pick up a static free signal immediately and listen to all my favorite channels. There is also the ability to create preset channels by holding down the ‘next button’ for a few seconds on the right side of the slotRadio. Overall, this player is all about getting the most music for your money.

The slotRadio player can accept any other microSD card and it will play MP3 files off it.  If you want to put on additional MP3 files, just drag and drop them on to your slotRadio player, you’ll be able to do so via a drag and drop interface on both Mac and PC. However, you are not able to see any of the music that comes preloaded on the slotRadio card. In contrast, the slotMusic cards for the slotMusic player are totally DRM free so that means you can drag and drop their music files wherever you’d like and delete them if you so choose. However the music that comes bundled on the slotRadio player’s card is a different story. SanDisk says that they are working on mobile applications that will let you take the slotRadio music cards and listen to its music on mobile phones. They also have slotRadio genre cards in the works, including one which just contains country music.

Sound Quality:
Since there is no equalizer or bass/treble options for the player, the sound quality really depends on the quality of files you upload to the slotRadio. The songs preloaded onto the player we got seemed to be decent quality and if you really need to experience a more full bodied song then turning the volume up will certainly improve the sound experience. I transferred a few songs on to the player and it was a fine playback experience and certainly nothing I would snicker at being subpar quality.

The slotRadio is certainly different. For starters it comes with a card that is preloaded with 1000 songs. What other MP3 player does that? The other very unusual aspect of the slotRadio player is that it has no play button. Instead it’s only sporting two simplistic buttons – which are skip forward and backward on playlists. Unfortunately the unit we tested is not a final unit, and neither was the card that was included. Thus we don’t know for sure what music will be bundled with the slotRadio player. However we do know that SanDisk is working with Billboard to provide the music, and Akon definitely has some music on there along with many other top hit artists.

So who is this for? 1. People that are lazy, or too busy to be bothered with iTunes, but they’re still interested in looking for an easy way to discover new music. 2. People that aren’t very tech savvy. I’m going to bring up the example of my mother. But first let me put up a disclaimer that I’m well aware that many moms out there are very tech savvy. However, my mom is not. I bought her an iPod shuffle figuring that it is so dead simple, she’ll for sure be able to use it. However, she cant figure out how to work iTunes! So when she wants to add or change music, she enlists my help. I think I’ll be trading in the Shuffle for the slotRadio for her. The slotRadio will retail for $99.99, it may seem a bit pricey but when you think about the cost of having to purchase just a hundred of those 1000 songs preloaded on the microSD – that’s money well saved.

The Good: Smart player for those who want to deviate away from iTunes and the monotony of just being apart of the same iPod crowd. Travel and exercise friendly. Has an LCD display that shows you the songs playing next or at the moment. 1000 songs are a great value.

The Bad: Don’t like that I can’t see the songs preloaded on the microSD card. You could load duplicate songs if you don’t remember what you have on there that was preloaded.  Lack of equalizer options.

Update 02/19/09: Thanks to the folks over at DAP Review who clued us in to the fact that the slotRadio does indeed have a Play/Pause function – “if you press and hold the Skip Button on the side of the device it will pause. Press again and it resumes playback.”

Update 3/18/09: The slotRadio player will be available starting March 31st on SanDisk.com. It will also become available at Radio Shack starting on Father’s Day.