Ok, first the good news:
Overall I like this new player better than the original Fuze. It’s faster transfer speeds with Winamp and Rhapsody is fantastic. I am so glad that Sansa used some very fast internal memory.
Rhapsody Channels has always been painfuly slow ever since the first E280R. The transfer rate for channels is amazing.
There are two issues that for me are nearly dealbreakers.
1. The sluggishness of the UI with a nearly fully loaded device. This is most apparant when switching to the Song “sub menu”. This issue has been well documented and seems directly proportional to how many items are in a given list. I understand software development and this could be an inherent design limitation on how the list is constructed. I certainly hope not. That being said, something needs to be done. If it requires Sansa to add another “layer” to the menu then so be it. A logical choice would be Alpha-Numeric layer so that the large list is broken down into smaller “chuncks” thus allowing for faster navigation between “Artist/Album/Song” catagories. I hope QA specifically tests future firmware with fully loaded (8000 to 10000 files) database. If they can nail performance in the 8000 to 10000 file range, then the rest will take care of itself. This is a basic tenant of “boundary” testing as outlined in Kem Caner’s excellent “testing Computer Software” book.
2. Please test all future functionality in a dark room. Much will be revealed. I got up last night and tried to re-enable sleep mode on my player after it turned off (It fell asleep before I did). I had to get out of bed and turn on the bedroom light since I simply could not find the “center” tap zone and kept hunting all around the sleep setting on the player like a bad game of pin the tail on the donkey.
I have been experimenting with putting a very small piece of electrical tape right in the center to train my finger on where the center is tactically, but so far, the tapes abrumpt edges are too irritating to the finger. I would try a small bead of fingernail polish if it did not void the warranty. This might be something to think about in future hardware revisions, but for now we really need to find an alternative so that users can use this product in low lighting conditions.
My suggestion is to have an alternate button or gesture available as a center tap. Maybe widen the detection zone in the middle of the pad, or use the power button as an alternate “enter/selecct” button. Yes, many power button/lock advocates would disagree but we need something to allow entry in low light conditions since the current center tap zone is so small.
And finally, please re-instate the “improvements” that were eventually put in the original Fuze but somehow found themselves missing in this versions. Things such as folder navigation, looping menu structure, etc. were hard faught UI enhancements that were implemented by user feedback on the original unit, why they were not seen as “required” for the new hardware is beyond me and a step backwards.
I know I sound like I’m just complaining. This is not the case. I really like the form and function of the touch controls when they work. The new Fuze+ is so close, and Sansa has normally had good support for its customers regarding firmware upgrades. I hope this continues.