Marvin's Clip Zip review (updated again with battery life info)


So it is time for SanDisk to unveil the 3rd generation of the vaunted Clip line (formerly Clip, then Clip+)…the “Clip Zip”. Well, first things first, I’m not a fan of the name, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one that feels that way. But in fairness to SanDisk, what were they going to call it? Clip++, Clip+ Jr.? I’m sure this will be debated, but hey, it’s out of our hands. However, this thing has a legacy to live up to. Let’s see if it measures up, shall we?

The most obvious change at first glance is the display screen, which is close to double the size of the Clip+ screen. This device has a color display, which will be welcomed by those who can’t live without their album art. I personally didn’t mind the smaller screen that was on the Clip+, but this new one is easier to read. My only potential reservation would be the effect that a bigger screen can have on battery life (which is claimed to be the same as the previous model.) There have always been people that complained about the battery life of the various Clips, but I have always been of the opinion that I didn’t want the player to get any bigger and heavier for increased battery life. I believe that the device’s portability is one of its greatest assets. The time is now displayed on the screen, available in either the 12-hour or 24-hour format. This was something I personally never cared about, the time on the scree, but there have been users asking for this, so it is good to see the company listening.

If you’ve used a Clip+, the menus will be quick to navigate through and figure out, but there are a couple of surprises that you don’t see right away. The categories appear in lowercase on the menu, which has a font that appears childlike but at the same time is easy to read…it appears reminiscent of the Fuze+, from what I have seen of the Fuze+ in web videos.

The categories in the menu are:

Music - The ever-popular folder browse mode is still there, but one thing missing is time elapsed/remaining during playback. They are present during podcast playback, so they should be here as well. Another new addition is alphabet browsing. If one scrolls through a music list, be it artist, album, or song, then the first letter appears on the screen, to show you how far you have scrolled through your list. Nice, yes? Well, it gets better. Double-tap the center button, and the letter or number comes up and you can short-cut through the library without having to scroll all the way through it. This will be especially handy for those who load up 32GB Micro SDHC cards in their Clip Zips. (sadly, internal memory is limited still to either 4GB or 8GB) :cry:Also, in addition to MP3, WMA, secure WMA, FLAC, and Ogg Vorbis, the ClipZip now supports AAC files that are not saddled with DRM. So file extension M4A, yes but M4P, no.

Radio - a nice upgrade here is that some station names show up, and perhaps in some areas with bigger stations, song titles might too…I believe this is called RDS info.

Books - for audiobooks and podcasts. I would personally prefer that they be in separate sub-menus because I do podcasts but not audiobooks, but that’s just me.

Voice - record, playback, delete. Simple.

Card - If you want to navigate just from the card, there is a folder browse mode in the music menu with separate submenus for internal and external memory. I am really not sure why this is here…seems redundant.

Sport- a stopwatch which can do lap times too. This could be useful to many who use the player while exercising.

Settings- all the usual Sansa stuff is here, but there are two new additions in the system settings…menu looping, which wraps it around if you’ve scrolled to the end; and Customize- you can turn off the main menu items you don’t wish to have displayed in the main menu, so as not to have to scroll past them. Brilliant!

The Replay Gain still works as advertised, keeping all properly RG-scanned-and-tagged tunes to a fairly constant volume level, which is invaluable when using shuffle mode, especially if you have music on your player that ranges from older recordings to today’s “loudness war” recordings. There are standard EQ presets, most of which I have never found useful for my ears (and this applies to all players I’ve tried, not just SanDisk players) . The Custom EQ gives you 5 bands to adjust the sound. When you adjust one of the sliders, the player volume drops a hair, which happened with the prior models, but besides that the custom EQ works acceptably well. If your headphones are truly well-balanced and you don’t need to use any EQ, then you’ll truly see how well this player performs.

I mentioned the screen before as the first and most obvious visual difference, but it is not the only one. The buttons all appear to be metallic and the layout on the front in particular has evolved slightly. Interestingly on the front of the player, it now says “SanDisk”, as opposed to “Sansa”, which appears on the clip on the back. Another welcome improvement is that the Micro SDHC card is pretty much flush with the exterior when inserted, unlike the Clip+ where it stuck out a little. The player appears to be just a tiny bit bigger than the old one.

One change that will have potentially mixed reviews is the new USB cable which is micro-USB, as opposed to the Clip+ mini-USB. Micro-USB has become a standard overseas, and it is making its way here on various devices, such as my Nook Simple Touch. That was a welcome surprise to find out the two devices shared a cable, since the cable supplied with the Clip series players is way too short, unless you are plugging it into a laptop. Thankfully, the one with my Nook is nice and long so I am mostly using that one.

All in all, I think SanDisk is to be commended on this effort. As opposed to the oft-criticized Fuze+ of last year, this Clip Zip was instead updated in a sensible, evolutionary manner, and I think for the most part it is a job well done.:smileyvery-happy:

Update: MP3 battery life results.

I just completed a battery rundown. Conditions were as such…internal memory plus a 1GB microSD card, shuffle all, ReplayGain engaged with no pregain added, all files LAME MP3, of varying bitrates but averaging 248kbps overall, volume about two-thirds into headphones overnight and boombox aux-in jack after I woke up, brightness and backlight set at minimum, and EQ was set at Normal.

It takes a few clicks to get to the info screen where you see the battery percentage, as opposed to the icon on the main screen. This was done 6 or 7 times. All told, player shut down due to low battery warning exactly at the 12 hour mark.

Update: Flac battery life results

Currently at 4 hours elapsed, and 55% charge remaining, with my FLAC shuffle test. Loaded about 9GB on my 16GB card, and close to 7GB on the internal and hit shuffle all. It’s running at 2/3 volume, Normal EQ, ReplayGain active but with no pregain, into the aux-in of my Sony boombox.

Update time!
So much for linear battery drain. At just over 6 hours elapsed, it was reading 44% remaining, and then it shut down 5 minutes before the 7 hour mark. According to foobar, the 15.7GB of FLACs on the player average out at 872kbps…not sure how relevant that is, but more info is better than less, right?

So no FLAC for me on this thing from now on, that’s for sure…lol. 

 Ogg Vorbis results…

OK, latest (and last) round of battery life numbers. I converted nine Judas Priest FLAC albums to Q5 Ogg Vorbis…4 albums on internal memory, 5 albums on external memory. Avg. bitrate according to foobar…157kbps. Other conditions were as before…ReplayGain engaged with no pregain, shuffle and repeat all on, volume approx. two-thirds. Runtime…nine hours, 15 minutes.