Review: Sandisk Sansa Clip

| |

Sansa ClipSansa ClipI have always wanted a good quality audio player that works well with Linux and plays Ogg Vorbis files. Even though the Sansa Clip was originally released in 2007, I somehow missed it. The gang on The Linux Link Tech Show mentioned the Sandisk Sansa Clip as being an affordable, quality portable audio player that worked well with Linux so I decided to give it a shot. I did a little bargain hunting online and found a refurbished 1GB unit for $18.95 plus shipping so I thought it was hard to go wrong for that price. The unit arrived three days ago and I spent all weekend using it.

All of the reviews I'd come across (including a few video reviews) gave it high marks. The latest firmware available for it allows for playback of .ogg (Ogg Vorbis) and .flac (Free Loseless Audio Codec) in addition to .mp3, .wav, .wma and DRMed audiobooks. It DOES NOT play .m4a (AAC) format. I prefer to use formats that are not patent encumbered so the vast majority of my music is in .ogg/.oga format.

Left & BackBack & Left viewHardware

Some of the reviews I read said the Sansa wasn't as stylish as the Apple iPod products but I have to disagree. I think the Sansa is very stylish. It actually looks like an earlier generation iPod but smaller. It comes in the following storage capacities: 1GB, 2GB, 4GB and 8GB. As previously mentioned, the unit I got was the 1GB model.

It has only two connectors: a headphone jack, and a mini-USB connector. The USB connector is used for file transfers and charging the internal battery.

The unit is made out of plastic and has a polished shiny finish to it that looks a little toyish. It is quick to pick up fingerprints. The unit I got is black. Even though it is plastic it seems fairly durable. I dropped it once getting out of the car and it fell about 5 feet onto rough concrete but it was unscratched and fully functional.

Right viewRight viewThe physical dimensions of the unit are 2.2 x 1.4 x 0.6 inches and it only weights 0.8 ounces.

Some reviewers mentioned they were unhappy with the placement of the headphones jack (it is on the right side of the unit) and that they would have have preferred it to have been on the top... but that really depends on how you clip it. I wear a lot of button up shirts and clipping it on sideways with the jack facing up seems fairly natural to me so I can't really complain.

The screen is very readable. The contrast and brightness seem to work well in all settings except for bright, direct sunlight. It is especially cool looking in the dark.

Battery life is stated to be about 15 hours. I didn't time it but I did use it for most of a whole day and had about 26% charge left. Charging is done via a short (about 8 inches) regular to mini USB cable. There is an optional AC adapter/charger available for an extra cost. Charging it from my laptop seemed to take a few hours.


The Sansa Clip really has some nice features above and beyond a simple audio media player. When you turn on the unit you will notice four things in the menu: 1) Music, 2) Settings, 3) Voice, and 4) FMRadio. The first two have all of the features you'd expect from an audio player but the latter two are pretty unique in a budget player. The Sansa Clip has a built in microphone and can do voice recording. It also has a built in FM radio tuner so you can listen to live radio if you want... but you can also record radio content if desired. In the three days I've had the unit I've not used the radio or voice recorder much... other than to see how they work.

Music playback is what you'd expect. Every review I've seen has mentioned the quality sound that the unit produces and one even said that using a $500 pair of earbuds with the unit was not overkill. I'll be sticking with the default earbuds that came with the unit myself.

The information present on the display during playback is what you'd expect... artist, song title, album name, track number, and a progress bar for the playback including a playtime indicator.

The Settings menu includes: 1) Equalizer, 2) Power, 3) Display, 4) Language, 5) FM Settings, 6) Volume, 7) System Info, 8) Reset All, 9) Format, 10) USB Mode, and 11) Press and Hold. I won't cover each area of the settings but I will mention a few things that stand out.

Display - You can adjust the brightness as well as the length of time the display stays illuminated before switching into power savings mode by blanking the display.

Power - AutoPower, how long without activity the unit will stay on before turning itself off to conserve battery. The available choices rang from 30 seconds to 1 hour with reasonable increments... as well as turning automatic powerdown off completely.

Equalizer - It has 6 choices including Normal, Rock, Pop, Jazz, Classical, and Custom. I'm not one who messes with equalizers too much and found Normal to be my preferred.

System Info - Very handy feature. Tells you the Firmware version, Memory used, Free space, Number of items (songs, audiobooks, podcasts, voice recordings, FM recordings), and Power charge.

I think the embedded software of the Sansa Clip is very high quality and fairly intuitive. The unit I got did not have the most current version of the firmware so I downloaded and upgraded it. I read on an online forum that there was a way to upgrade it from Linux but the default firmware download was an .exe file so I just hooked it up to my wife's Windows box and upgraded it from there. Sorry for wimping out on that portion.

Audiobooks and Podcasts

Audiobook and podcast listeners will be happy to know that the software remembers where you were last listening and will continue where you left off. Your listening position within an audiobook or podcast will be retained if you play other music... and when you return back to a audiobook or podcast it will ask if you want to continue where you left off or start at the beginning.

There is a case where it will dump the where-you-were information and that is when you plug in the unit to a computer for charging or file transfers. When the Sansa Clip gets plugged into a computer it is no longer accessible as a media player... it can only charge or transfer files. When you unplug it from the computer it automatically rebuilds the media database and as a result of that process the where-you-were in audiobooks and/or podcasts is lost.

If the where-you-were information gets lost, that doesn't mean you have to start all over. Just play the audiobook again and hold down the right arrow on the wheel to fast forward. The longer you hold the faster it will go... so it does take a little getting used to... and you may need to backtrack some if you overshoot.

The Sansa Clip actually has three playback speeds: Slow, Normal, and Fast. Normal is normal while Slow and Fast will change the speed of the playback as well as the pitch of the voice(s) in the recoding. To access the playback speeds, as well as a few other features (like being able to delete an audiobook after you are done with it), just arrow down during playback or while paused to reveal an additional menu.

Sansa Clip vs. Apple iPod Shuffle

Since the Sansa Clip is pretty small it seems reasonable to compare it to the Apple iPod Shuffle. My wife has the previous generation Shuffle and my inlaws have the new generation Shuffle (with all of the controls on the earbud cable) so I feel quite comfortable comparing the iPod Shuffle to the Sansa Clip.

How do they compare? The Sansa Clip kicks the iPod Shuffle's ass. The main reason is the Sansa Clip has a display screen. Need more reasons? The Sansa has a lot more features... most of which I have covered already. The Shuffle doesn't have an FM tuner, doesn't do voice recording, doesn't have a display screen, and (mostly) only works with iTunes on Windows and Mac. It seems that every iTunes upgrade or firmware update Apple comes out tries to break compatibility with non-iTunes applications... and yes, it is on purpose.

Using the Sansa Clip with Linux

How do you use it with Linux? Just plugging it in via the USB cable makes it appear as a USB storage device. Just drag and drop media files into the directories pre-created on the unit. The Sansa Clip comes populated with the following directories:


Just place your .ogg files in the MUSIC directory... or if you like to be more organized, you can create a hierarchy of directories for artist and album if you wish.

Inside of the RECORD directory are two additional directories FM and VOICE which the Sansa Clip uses to separate recordings you might make.

The Sansa Clip really ignores any hierarchy you might put in the MUSIC directory and gets its information from the tags embedded inside the media files. Most media player software works this way so you might find yourself spending some time cleaning up the tags in your media files. The Sansa Clip uses the tag data to organize the music into the various display categories it offers (Artists, Albums, Songs, Genres, etc)... as well as the information it provides during playback. I found that a small portion of my digital music collection had poor or no tag data so I installed easytag and took care of that.

If you put some files in the AUDIBLE, AUDIOBOOK, or PODCAST directories, they will show up in the expected section under Music.

The Sansa Clip offers two USB modes although I'm really not familiar with the distinctions between them and just use mine in the simplest mode... as a USB storage device as mentioned above. It is my understanding that there are plugins for some of the Linux media players that allow for a more integrated use of the Sansa Clip and "syncing" type operations. I have not explored those.


I give the Sansa Clip two thumbs up. It is affordable, it has a lot of features, it is durable... the software works well and it sounds great. It works great with Linux.

If you need / want a nice, Linux compatible audio player, buy a Sandisk Sansa Clip now... especially with some of the discounted prices that you can find locally or online. Sandisk also has a pricier model named the Sansa Fuse that has a bigger screen and does video playback.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Sandisk Sansa Clip

I just wanted to compliment you on this great review. I saw one of these at a liquidator and your review clinched my decision to buy this. I use Ubuntu 9.10 at home and the fact that I don't have to use a MTP method to transfer files is a definite plus. Thanks!

Sandisk Clip + loads pictures from my computer while syncing

I just got the Sandisk Clip+ 8gb and everytime I transfer music from my computer to the Clip + I end up having to go in and delete pictures that were transfered from the computer. I have no idea what I am doing wrong and have read through the online manual and can't discover a fix.
Any idea what I might be doing wrong and how to go about fixing it?

Scott Dowdle's picture


How exactly are you transfering music from your computer to your Sandisk? I just use a regular file manager and when I grab files a - z, it doesn't arbitrarily copy over files I didn't select in the copy operation.

Are you using some sync program?

sansa e280v2 ocassionally misses some mp3 files

How many mp3 files were you able to use on the sansa clip?

I have a sansa e280v2 and once in a while I may put 110 files in one album but only 105 appear in the display, even though I can check the files are on the device (and that the player on my cell phone sees all 110 files, so the tags are correct).

Scott Dowdle's picture

How many mp3 files?

Hmmm, I mostly use .ogg files... AND I put artists and albums in separate directories so I haven't really run into a situation where there is a directory with > 20 files in it.

My guess would be your tags are great but if other devices see the missing songs just fine I'm not sure what to tell you other than maybe dividing up the number into folders to see if that makes a difference.

How many mp3 files?


I went further into this issue of missing tracks from albums and think there's
something wrong with the sansa e280v2 software reading the tags.

When I 1) erased all the tags with easy tag, 2) saved the files, 3) added back some tags,
I was able to get all 111 mp3 songs appear in the sansa.

My cell phone's player had no problem using the original tags in the downloaded files.

upgrading firmware from linux

Just got a 2GB refurbed Sansa Clip. I found the binary for the latest firmware on the Sansa forums.

To install I:

  • unzipped the file I downloaded ( --> m300a.bin as of this writing)
  • plugged in the Sansa Clip (automatically recognized on my system)
  • copied the bin file to the root of the Sansa Clip (/media/SANSA\ CLIP on my system)
  • unmounted the Sansa Clip (aka eject from Nautilus) then unplugged

The firmware was automatically updated after unplugging from the USB cable.

One thing to note:
When I first tried to "eject" from Nautilus in Gnome (after I had copied a large (700+ MB) of files over) I got an error message. First a message box appeared telling me not to unplug until it finished writing the data to the Clip. After some period I got an error message.. which was essentially a time out since it hadn't finished writing the contents yet. I just let it go, and it finished in a few more seconds. I think the USB ports on the front of my PC are USB1.0 so it was a bit slow.

Already enjoying this fine player, thanks for the review!


p.s. Scott: recognized your name from openvz mailing list :)

Sansa Fuze

I haven't tried the Clip, but I have the 4 GB Fuze and I have to say that it's fantastic. Easy to use with Linux in MSC mode (drag and drop). So long as your ID3 tags are in order, everything works great. To have album art displayed, either use graphic embedded music files, or make sure there's a file called folder.jpg in the album's folder. And the Sansa developers are great; they release firmware updates regularly to add features and squash bugs. The Sansa forums are also lively, though like anyplace else it has a few blowhards and idiots. But there's a lot of useful help to be found there. :)

Firmware versions

I bought a Sansa Clip in October 2007. and at that time the firmware didn't support the MSC USB mode. I spent a weekend trying to compile the necessary libraries and software on and old Debian installation to get it to recognize the Clip but didn't manage. Luckily after I used my friends Windows computer to update the firmware to the version that was newest at the time I discovered that I can now change the USB mode of the player and after setting it to MSC (Mass Storage device Class) instead of MTP (Microsoft's Media Transfer Protocol) everything worked as expected. And is still working.
By the way - I didn't know that the latest firmware let's you play .ogg-s and .flac-s and also I never figured out how to update the firmware in Linux, but it is nice to know that the answer is out there. So - thanks for the tip(s)!

8GB Clip: version and issues

Thanks for the review. I've had the 8GB Clip for several months now. I bought to load up my Zondervan KJV Bible (64 CDs). The [original] software is V02.01.13A -- haven't taken the time to see if there's an upgrade; but this version has a significant issue. After getting no response from Sandisk support, I just had to dig in and write several scripts to handle converting all the .wav to .mp3, add the mp3tag info, and create the .m3u files so that I could jump directly to say John, Chapter 3...

Anyway, the biggest issue I have is that for some yet unknown reason, the database rebuild always messes up a few gospel books such that they appear empty. The other day after adding a 'master' .m3u (all the books/chapters in order), I noticed that the previously "empty" books were now OK -- BUT, the next-in-order of each (about 6 of them) were now the "empty" ones. :( I've copied out and analyzed the MTABLE.SYS file and can find nothing wrong with (other than random ordering of the files with an index to correct that during playback), so it presently appears that the "empty" ones must be due to a playback bug.

Other than that, the unit is VERY nice. Except for reception inside a box store (like WalMart), the FM radio reception is excellent -- better than the high priced unit in my vehicle.

Scott Dowdle's picture

Check for a firmware upgrade

I believe that you are at least one version of the firmware behind so check for an update... as that might take care of your problem.

I haven't used playlists at all

Mostly fixed

Yup, upgrade solved most of the issues. The only thing left is that I had to change any entry containing "./" (./somesong.mp3 to somesong.mp3) -- "./" simply means "this directory". The new version is obviously trying to do the right thing -- stalls for some time based on number of entries in the [empty] playlist; but this version is a HUGE improvement and removing "./" is a reasonable solution as it's not necessary and easily special-cased when building any top-level .m3u files.

Rockbox port in progress

Why not mention that the Rockbox project has a Linux based firmware port in development for the Sansa units?

Scott Dowdle's picture

Which Sansa units?

I checked out the Rockbox website and see that some Sansa products are on the list... but as far as I can tell, the Sansa Clip isn't... nor is the Fuze. I would be happy to find out otherwise.


I bought a 2GB Fuze earlier this year to satisfy my Free Talk Live fix on my commute to work.

I am absolutely enamored with Sansa products and highly recommend them to anybody looking for a great product without the hype behind Apple products. Battery life is excellent and in mass storage mode works seamlessly with Linux, Windows, BSD, Solaris or Mac OS X.

Two years ago, I bought each

Two years ago, I bought each family member a Sansa M240. Within, 6 months time 3 of the four players died, and within a year all of them were dead. Also, the firmware made it impossible to listen to audiobooks in order without renaming just about every audiobook. Tech support was poor, claiming no problems with the firmware.

Also, many Sansa players are NTP only, so you'll have to use Amarok to load it.

Myself, no matter how cheap, I'll never buy a Sansa product again.

And also...

Neither the Clip or the Fuze are NTP only. With latest firmware, you can select either mode (I use mass storage mode on my Fuze).

Maybe older models were problematic, but my opinion is that newer models are well worth buying.

Scott Dowdle's picture

Oranges and other oranges

As they say, that was then and this is now.

Those players sucked. This one doesn't. I can't twist your arm and make you buy this one... nor would I want to. I can't speak for other Sansa players... but I can for the model I reviewed. The only unanswered question I have is how long will this one last. I'll have to let some time pass to answer that. We do have one commenter who says he has had his Sansa Clip for quite a while now and it has stood the test of time.

All the reviews I've seen for this model have been good. If you can find a bad review, I'll be happy to look into it.

Thanks for the input though. I'll remember not to buy one of those.

Recording format?

What are the options for recording formats for voice? Which forma(s), and is it possible to adjust the recording quality?

Scott Dowdle's picture

Recording format

The recording format is .wav 384Kbit 24Khz which I believe is CS quality. There doesn't appear to be a way to adjust the quality... so the amount of space the recording takes up will be large because it is uncompressed. Of course you can copy the .wav files off of the device and re-encode them however you like.


I have the bigger brother to the clip and i really like it...

and after a firmware update (windows based) I was able to use all of my music files (flac and oggs)

I would give the fuse 2 thumbs up as well

Sansa gives excellent value!

I am using an 8GB Sansa Fuze under Linux (Ubuntu Intrepid) which also works great and was priced very competitively. Plays OGG and has an expansion slot for up to 8GB more. I bought some Sennheiser CX-400 in-the-ear headphones as an upgrade (those are actually quite inexpensive, but a step up from the buds that come with the player), and the sound quality is fantastic with them! Highly recommended for a Linux user!

Linux support


You started your review stating you wanted an audio player that worked well with linux. I couldn't find any elaboration on that topic in your review. How does the Sansa work with Linux?

Scott Dowdle's picture

A brief covering I shall expand

I guess you missed the paragraph in the conclusion that says:

How do you use it with Linux? You don't need any plugins for your preferred media application... unless you want to "sync" it. Just plugging it in via the USB cable makes it appear as a USB storage device. Just drag and drop media files into the directories pre-created on the unit.

As a result of your comment I have updated the review with a section that goes into more detail about using it under Linux.

Thanks for the feedback!

Small DAP, Big Value

Darn, I can't get one here in the Philippines :( But they say it has audiophile SQ for the price. It's definitely a winner :)

Cowon iAudio does the job

Cowon iAudio does the job for me, just copy+paste, works with flac, higher quality audio than ipod, 16gb.

Awesome player!

I've had one of these exact models for the past few years, and it works great. Battery lasts forever, even in a cold winter car. About 20 minutes of listening time daily and a single charge lasted a solid week. Definitely buy the larger 2GB if you can.

The only issue I ran into with Linux is that mine sometimes got stuck in MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) mode instead of mass storage mode. There is some manual step of going into "hold" position while turned off, then turning on from that position while holding the center button.

Be careful because on the device side it mounts into two different "partitions" depending on the mode. That is, you can't see any MTP files in mass-storage mode, and vice versa, even though they still take up space. (It's probably a single partition that uses a different mount point depending on the mode.)

But it sounds like the newer firmware might have that USB mode in settings now.

Scott Dowdle's picture

Latest firmware - 1.01.32A


I updated to the latest and my Sansa Clip says it is running Version 1.01.32A of the firmware, and yes, it has an option in settings to change the USB mode. I haven't had to change it.

after firmware upgrade player shows album empty


After I've upgraded to v01.01.32A my sansa does not show any of my albums even though when I connect it through my pc (win xp) I see them. Do you what's wrong?
Thank you.

Scott Dowdle's picture

Looking for a fix?

I don't know. Here is what I would try:

1) Connect to your computer
2) Copy music to a folder on your computer
3) Delete everything off of the Sansa
4) Disconnect
5) It should rebuild the music database on the Sansa
6) Connect it back to the computer
7) Copy the music from the computer to the Sansa
8) Disconnect
9) It should rebuild the music database

If the above doesn't work for you, I'd be curious what format your music is in? .mp3? .ogg? or what?

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.