INTRO: I liked the Sansa Clip+ so much I was curious about its bigger brother: The Fuze. The word on the web is the Fuze has similar performance to the Clip+ and it has several advantages. And the newer Fuze+ is getting some negative reviews, so I wanted to grab an original Fuze before they're all gone. I purchased a black 4 GB version for $50.
FUZE ADVANTAGES vs CLIP+: Some reasons why someone might choose a Fuze over the Clip+:
- The screen is bigger, easier to read, in color, and can show more information like more of the artist/song information, album art, etc. The bigger screen is especially an advantage with Rockbox as it can display all sorts of cool things.
- The controls are larger and easier to use. The buttons are more spread out on the Fuze and it has a rubberized rotating "wheel" which makes navigating the menus, adjusting the volume, etc. quicker.
- The Fuze has a larger battery and will play music longer than the Clip+
- You can watch videos in several formats including MP4, MOV, AVI, DiVX, WMV
- You can take your pictures with you and display them on the Fuze.
- The Fuze looks and feels more substantial. The back is “rubberized” which makes it feel better in your hand. It’s much thinner than the Clip+ which makes it seem more sleek and expensive.
- I’m not sure many take advantage of it, but the “dock-style” connector at the base of the Clip+ allows it to be used in Sansa-compatible devices like portable speakers, etc. There are line outputs available in the connector.
FUZE DISADVANTAGES vs CLIP+:
- It’s bigger, heavier, and especially wider. It’s more noticeable in a pocket.
- You can’t clip it directly to your shirt sleeve, pocket, etc.
- You may need to buy an armband if you want to use it at the gym or jogging
- Some find the wheel imprecise and it also makes accidentally changing the volume easier
- It uses a proprietary Sansa “dock” connector (the same as the e200 series) vs a standard mini USB jack on the Clip+. This means you need a special cable for charging and syncing the Fuze but not the Clip.
- It’s been discontinued and will eventually be hard to find at stores.
IMPRESSIONS: It’s a nice player—certainly one that seems like it should cost more than $50. It’s sleeker than the much thicker and harder to hold Clip+. There are some extra screen animations and graphics, plus the wheel, but the user interface, menus, etc. are mostly very similar to the ones on the Clip+. The Clip+ has volume up/down buttons on the side and the Fuze uses the wheel instead. Both players also run Rockbox firmware in similar ways but the bigger screen on the Fuze is a huge advantage here. Listening to the Fuze it sounds the same, to my ears, as the Clip+.
MEASUREMENTS: The Fuze measures nearly identically to the Clip+ right down to the 0.25% pitch error with the Sansa firmware. I checked all the same things I measured with the Clip+ and they’re all essentially the same. It’s very likely Sandisk is using the same audio design in both. It has the same ruler flat frequency response, low output impedance and respectable distortion levels. The numbers and graphs are so similar it’s a waste of time to publish them here—just see the Clip+ Measurements. Here’s a quick dScope capture showing several Fuze measurements (click for full size):
SANDISK GOING BACKWARDS: I haven’t personally used or tested one, but judging by the reviews on Amazon, the forums, and elsewhere, the “new and improved” Sansa Fuze+ is mostly a step backwards. They updated the shape, look and controls to try and chase Apple, but if what I’ve read is true, it’s harder to use, slower, and doesn’t have as impressive of audio performance. Several people have said they got rid of their Fuze+ in favor of the older original. I also fear this may happen when they replace or update the Clip+ as well but perhaps they’ll learn from their mistakes with the Fuze+?
BOTTOM LINE: If some of the advantages of the Fuze over the Clip+ are appealing, you might want to consider getting one soon before they’re sold out. I wouldn’t be surprised, if like the previous 5th generation iPod Nano, the Fuze ends up selling for more on eBay than they sold for new in the stores. Apple, in their quest for ever smaller/thinner/sleeker body jewelry, once again chose form over function and removed the video camera from the 6th generation Nano. That’s created a strong secondary market for the previous generation with factory sealed Nano 5G’s bringing higher prices than they did new. If you already have a Fuze and love it, you might want to consider buying a spare.
MISC DETAILS (edit 2/24/11): My Fuze is running V02.03.33A firmware. And I’ve been informed by one of the Rockbox developers on Anything But iPod the Fuze V2 (i.e. like the one I tested) uses different hardware than the Fuze V1. So your mileage may vary if you have the earlier version.