Amazing audio and video quality, improved exterior casing, Rhapsody-enabled (go figure)
Buttons are slightly undersized and situated slightly too close to the scroll wheel.
We liked almost everything about SanDisk’s Sansa e260 flash-memory digital media player when we reviewed it in November 2006, but we slapped it with a verdict of 5 because we activated its voice recorder every time we picked the damned thing up. The Sansa e280R fixes that problem and adds two more gigs of memory for good measure.
The e280R also features a special connection to Rhapsody, our favorite music-rental service: The player comes preloaded with Rhapsody channels and playlists, which you can synchronize with your Rhapsody library. If you’re already a Rhapsody To Go subscriber—or if you’re not interested in becoming one—SanDisk’s e280 is the very same device minus the preloaded music.
Rhapsody has two paid subscription models: With the Unlimited plan, you can stream and download as much music as you’d like to up to three PCs for $10 per month. The To Go plan allows you to transfer the tracks to up to three digital media players. DRM strings attached to both plans see to it that your listening rights expire when your subscription ends and prohibit you from burning tracks to CD unless you purchase them. The e260R comes with a free two-month subscription to the To Go plan.
SanDisk fixed the voice-recorder problem by tweaking the player’s firmware to give you the option of having a window pop up that asks you to confirm your intent to record. You can also turn the record feature off altogether. We also noticed, however, that the button on this unit offers much more resistance than the previous model’s, so you might not need to fiddle with these settings at all.
We still don’t like the e280R’s undersized buttons, which are situated too close to the scroll wheel for our not-so-big thumbs, but the audio and video quality is just as good as the e260’s, and the microSD card slot is superhandy. With a street price hovering around $200, the e280R is one of the best flash-based media players on the market.