You like the simple life. If you're going to buy an MP3 player, the only decision to make is which iPod best suits you. Right?

Not in these financially unstable times. You can find a 4GB iPod Nano for £100, but the Sandisk Sansa Fuze costs 30% less and does much the same things. It deserves more than a cursory glance, and offers quite astonishing value for money.

Black semi-beauty

First impressions are positive. The Fuze is an attractive, compact player that doesn't look quite as squat as a Nano and is finished in high-quality, creak free plastic – glossy at the front, soft touch at the back.

It's a little thicker and certainly not as stylish as a Nano or Zune, but the signature glowing blue ring round the mechanical scroll wheel is eye-catching. Also, it's available in pink, red, blue and silver in addition to the classic black, so you should find one you can bear to pocket.

Setup is reassuringly cognitive function-free – plug into WMP10 or 11 and you can simply drag-and-drop or create a sync list – though in order to get photos or video on to the Fuze you have to download the equally straightforward Sansa Media Converter software from Sandisk's website.

Intuitive interface

Operation is similarly simple. The clickable, mechanically rotating scrollwheel and home switch make navigation a doddle and the menu is well animated, if less cool than a vindaloo covered in fire. It really needs a new skin.

Once you've set the music spinning, you'll be impressed. Even the included headphones have redeeming qualities. They're clear and spacious, though sound lightweight and are easily overpowered by background noise.

Stick in a pair of decent Sennheisers or Goldrings in and the Fuze really shines. It can hold it's head up in the company of our Sony NWZ-A20 favourite, and that's twice the price.

Radio woes

Other functionality is welcome – though it also happens to be where the wheels fall off a little. A 40-preset FM radio is marvellous on paper but ours couldn't hold a signal. Also, the screen has a strange yellow tint that blights photos and videos. It's nowhere near the resolution of the Zune's or Nano's, either.

A voice recorder goes some way to making up for the discrepancies, though we're not convinced it's a deal maker. On the other hand, the built-in microSD card slot may well be. This 4GB player can be converted to a 36GB one with the addition of an SDHC – that's not to be sniffed at.

To be fair, this is not a player that's likely to be purchased for its video capabilities. It's primarily a music machine, and it does music better than almost anything else available for the money.


Stuff says... 

SanDisk Sansa Fuze review

Bargain pricing, a wealth of functionality and excellent sound quality make the Fuze well worth a look