It’s easy to see how SanDisk has managed to establish itself as a firm number two in the American MP3 market. The iPod, of course, rules the roost over there, as it does in practically every country on the planet. But SanDisk’s Sansa MP3 players have slowly been building a following, and with the View, that following only looks likely to get bigger.

The Sansa View takes over the mantle from the e280 as SanDisk’s flagship player. And while there is probably nothing seriously groundbreaking about this new model, there’s certainly a lot to love about it.

The first thing you'll notice is how quickly it boots up. In just a few seconds you're at the top screen and ready to plunge into the menu system. The interface, meanwhile, remains largely the same as that found in the previous e-series. And contrary to what you might think, that’s a good thing. Because the interface on the Sansa has always been incredibly slick and intuitive.

iPod alternative

The scrolling clickwheel, too, works very similarly to that found on those traditional iPods. You rotate your thumb in a circle to scroll through the menus and navigate through your song library. The difference is that, instead of being touch-sensitive, the wheel on the Sansa actually moves with your thumb.

The old Sansas had a very lumpy wheel, which clunked as you rotated it. This was to enable you to ‘feel’ the scrolling accurately, to enable you to scroll one notch at a time (and thus one song at a time). This approach has been refined for the Sansa View. The wheel is now smooth and rubbery, while the notch-by-notch clunks are now much more subtle. It feels like a really well put together product too, more so than previous Sansa models.

Added is the new 'home' button which works in a similar way to that found on Apple's iPhone and iPod touch. No matter where you are in the interface, a press of the home button will return you to the top menu. This was a feature badly needed on previous Sansa models and is thus a very welcome addition.

And what else is new? Well, the View is also gorgeously slim in comparison to the older models. And that’s despite the decent battery life and the 16GB of flash memory inside.

The screen, too, has been improved. For a device named the ‘View’ you’d expect the screen to be at least pretty to look at. And it is. It’s 2.4 inches across, so bigger than before, and the 320 x 240 resolution is also an improvement over previous models.

It's also a bit of a hottie – it’s lovely to look at. And while it’s obviously not as gorgeous as the iPod touch, it manages to be a more versatile product than the touch, and yet still costs £100 less. It plays a wider variety of file formats, too, while also including an FM radio tuner, an integrated microphone, and support for Audible audiobooks.

Great for music

Another plus point is that the View is a plug and play device, so there’s no need to install any software on your system in order to use it. Plug in the included USB cable and the View will be detected, and added as an external device in ‘My Computer’. From there, you can drag and drop your music directly onto it.

So that’s the good stuff, what about the bad stuff?

Well, the Sansa View was originally supposed to be a dedicated video player, a lot like Creative’s Vision W. But SanDisk scrapped that idea, and the product we have here is now far from being an accomplished video machine. The formats it natively supports are limited, just H.264, WMV, and MPEG4. And that doesn’t mean any video in those formats will automatically work, either, oh no.

We put a random selection of each video format on the player, only to find that it couldn’t play any of them at all. This, we found, was because the resolution of the videos were too high for the player. Unlike Creative’s Vision:m, the View seems unable to downscale video files. And so in most cases, conversion is required.

It’s not great for videos then. But let’s be honest, if you want a portable video player, you’re going to buy an Archos. This is an MP3 player. It’s made for music. And as such, it looks great, it’s easy to use, it sounds fantastic, and it's inexpensive. If you’re in the market for a new MP3 player, and you don’t want an iPod, you could do a lot worse than to plump for the Sansa View. And you couldn't do much better.