Sandisk Sansa Connect Portable Music Player Page 3

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Unfortunately, the only place I could depend on for free Wi-Fi was my own apartment, and not for any lack of public access. For example, I found several unencrypted networks listed on my screen while standing in and around New York's Bryant Park, a location extolled for its free Wi-Fi. Yet the Sansa failed to connect to any of them. To be fair, I had the same problem with the MusicGremlin as well when I tested it. Sandisk says the fault lay in these networks putting up flash pages - promotional welcoming screens compatible with notebook computers but not handheld music players. Sandisk is pushing a standard that would make such networks friendlier to small Wi-Fi devices. Meanwhile, a spokesman suggested that if I had a T-Mobile account, I should be able to connect at any Starbuck's. I chose instead to continue my pursuit of free access, and I did manage to connect in the lobby of my health club and at my office by piggybacking on a neighboring company's Wi-Fi. The lesson: Although the Sansa's wireless function worked as promised in compatible hot spots, the vagaries of public Wi-Fi still presents some practical limitations on what you can do with it. I also noticed that the battery drained more quickly - actually about twice as fast - when the Wi-Fi function was engaged.

Sansa Connect doesn't do video, but it does do slide shows. You can view Flickr photos, either your own or those from anyone who has chosen to go public, even as you play music. And, unlike a big-screen TV, the Sansa Connect can be turned sideways for landscape mode without giving you a hernia, though as on many portables the screen can be difficult to see in direct sunlight. Pull the earphones out of their jack, and the mono speaker on the back of the Sansa kicks in. It makes a tinny sound, but at least you're finally listening wire-free.

BOTTOM LINE There's really only one reason to choose the Sansa Connect over a conventional iPod: WiFi connectivity. Streaming Internet radio straight to your head without a computer is cutting-edge stuff for sure. Sorry to say, then, that the dearth of reliable Wi-Fi hot spots outside your own home may make the Sansa Connect's most compelling feature more of a curiosity than a practical alternative to loading your player with a computer and USB cable.

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