Sansa Fuze+ Portable Music Player

Sansa Fuze+
Sansa Fuze+

Sansa Fuze+

If you have wanted to buy a portable music player, but were put off by the price, the Sansa Fuze+ may be your answer. The prices for the Fuze+ start at just $89. The Fuze+ is the newest version of the SanDisk Fuze line of players. It has some great features — especially the ability to play a variety of different formats. This allows you to drag your music right out of iTunes into the player. In fact, this is the most full-functioned MP3 player that I have ever reviewed. It can even play FM radio and record your voice and/or a radio show. It comes in great colors. The only drawback is an erratic touchpad that doesn’t always give you the proper response to your touch. If you can live with that, it’s a winner!

The Bottom Line:

The Fuze+ wins the prize for the music player with the most functionality at an affordable price. It includes an FM radio with the ability to record radio, a voice recorder, a photo viewer, good video playback, a MicroSD card slot for expansion, the ability to play slotRadio cards, good battery life, and the ability to play a wide range of formats (including MP3,FLAC, AAC, and OGG to name just a few).

All of this functionality comes at an excellent price. As we write this, an 8GB iPod Nano is selling for $149 while the 8GB Fuze+ costs only $89. The Fuze+ has similar audio quality to the iPod, but it also has a larger screen, video playback, more audio settings, removable storage capabilities, an FM radio, and voice recording. It even displays photos with better accuracy than the Nano.

While the interface is excellent, the biggest drawback of the Fuze+ is the erratic touch panel. It simply doesn’t respond consistently. After a few weeks of use, we got somewhat used to it, but still were sometimes annoyed while using it.

The ability to use slotRadio card should not be overlooked. You can purchase a slotRadio card that contains 1,000 songs for $40. It is an excellent way to get music into the player without ever having to use the computer or spend time downloading songs.

The Fuze+ delivers solid quality and great functionality at a very affordable price. If you can live with its erratic touchpad, it is a bargain. If SanDisk can make the touchpad more consistently responsive, it will have a real iPod killer in this product.
The Good

  • Solid build
  • Reasonable price
  • Excellent format support, including ACC
  • Expandable memory card
  • Lightweight
  • Plays slotRadio cards
  • FM radio
  • Voice and radio recording
  • Variety of colors and capacities
  • Good video playback

The Bad

  • Erratic touchpad
  • Small screen
  • No sync software included

You can read my more detailed review with pictures at HardwareSecrets.com.

The 8GB Sansa Fuze+ is currently on sale at Best Buy online for $79.99. Click the “BUY” link below to purchase.

SanDisk Sansa Fuze+ 8GB MP3 Player – Purple

Take your music, videos and photos with you when you’re on the go with this MP3 player that features a 2.4″ bright QVGA screen for an easy-to-see display and simple navigation. The rechargeable battery offers up to 24 hours of music playback.


Tablet PC Choices

The move to tablet computing and e-readers is coming quickly. The extreme popularity of the Apple iPad, which is both a tablet and an e-reader, has assured that this trend will continue. At CES 2011 there were no less than 80 tablets on display. Everyone is trying to best the iPad and to find the right price point. Many major manufacturers like Dell, HP, Samsung, Blackberry, Motorola, and Lenovo have jumped on the tablet bandwagon as have many small manufacturers who are looking to make a big splash. There are a variety of operating systems powering these devices, and they come in many different sizes and with many different features.

The Apple iPad, of course, works with the Apple operating system, iOS, which is made for mobile devices. Blackberry has a tablet called the PlayBook which uses their own new tablet OS. The Samsung Galaxy Tab runs on Android 2.2 and the new Motorola Zoom will run on Android 3.0, the new Android tablet operating system. Most of these tablets rely on small Apps rather than the full blown programs like those that run on a computer. Each of these operating systems has its own proprietary App store associated with it.

Most of these tablets will allow you to do email, browse the Web, read books, watch videos and TV shows, and display pictures. Some will also let you do GPS navigation and video conferencing.  So the hardware and basic software in a tablet will certainly be important, but the variety and quality of Apps in the OS’s App store may be even more important.  It is the Apps that will let you play games and perform all sorts of important functions. Right now, Apple has the most Apps, but Android is quickly catching up.

If you are interested in purchasing a tablet PC, 2011 is sure to bring a lot of choices. However, the decision of which to buy will remain difficult for at least the next two years. It is estimated that of the 80 or so new tablets that were shown at CES 2011, only 30% of them will be left after two years.

Verizon Gets the iPhone

As you might expect, people ask me a lot of questions. Because I review a myriad of cameras, printers, and cell phones, I always get questions about these devices. For the past six months, the two questions that I have been asked the most are: “Will Verizon get the iPhone?” and “When will Verizon get the iPhone?”

My answers have been:  “Yes” and “Sometime this year.” This week proved my answers correct. Verizon just announced that they will be selling the iPhone starting Feb. 10th with existing Verizon customers able to start pre-ordering on February 3.

Those of you who were waiting for this announcement can immediately start cheering. There is, no doubt, a pent up demand for the iPhone on a carrier other than AT&T. This is especially true in our area where AT&T service is slow and spotty. So if you are thinking about getting an iPhone from Verizon, here’s what you need to know.

The Verizon iPhone uses a different underlying cellular technology. AT&T uses the GSM technology while Verizon uses a technology called CDMA. You really don’t have to worry about the underlying technology except to know that the AT&T iPhone has a SIM card while the Verizon iPhone does not. Since GSM is the technology that is used world-wide, but CDMA is not, the AT&T iPhone has world-roaming capabilities but the Verizon iPhone will have extremely limited capabilities for world travelers.

Because of the differing technologies, an iPhone that was purchased from AT&T cannot be used on the Verizon network. In reverse, if you purchase a Verizon iPhone it will not be able to be used on the AT&T network in the future. In the Verizon iPhone, Apple also rearranged the antennas to improve reception. Because of this, the volume rocker switch has been moved slightly. You may not even notice the difference, but if you have an iPhone case that had a cutout for the switches, even the AT&T iPhone case may not work with the new Verizon iPhone.

However the iPhone 4, which is the current version for both AT&T and Verizon, will pretty much look and act the same. They look almost identical with Apple’s slick, thin, high-tech appearance. They will both have the 940×640-pixel Retina display, 5-megapixel camera with HD video capture, and FaceTime. If you have purchased Apps from ITunes for an AT&T iPhone, all of those Apps can be used on your Verizon iPhone.

The actual price of the iPhone will be the same at AT&T and Verizon. Both are charging$199 for the 16GB iPhone and $299 for 32GB iPhone. In order to get the iPhone to work, in addition to your cellular talk and text costs, you must also purchase a monthly a data plan. This is true with all smart phones on all cellular networks. AT&T charges new customers $15 a month for 200MB; $25 for 2GB. Verizon has not made iPhone data pricing information available yet, but the company’s data plans for other smart phones are: $15 a month for 150MB; $29.99 for unlimited.

One other difference between the two iPhone is that the new Verizon iPhone will be able to act as a hotspot, meaning that with an addition monthly fee to Verizon, you will be able to use your Verizon iPhone to get up to five other devices like laptop computers on the Internet. This, however, is not a big drawback for the AT&T iPhone as it is scheduled to get the same capability with a software update that will be available soon.

This brings us to another important point – iPhone updates. The iPhone has gone through 4 generations with each new generation coming with a major release of the iOS operating system, which runs the iPhone. Each of these was introduced in June. Each generation ushered in huge changes. These included things like the 3G cellular network capabilities, a compass, the ability to take video, a second camera, and a higher-resolution display.

This leaves everyone wondering if they should jump on that Verizon iPhone now or wait until this summer to see if a new version appears? The other question that is being asked is if the Verizon network is strong enough to withstand millions of new Verizon iPhone users. Although Verizon says that they are prepared for this, it obviously depends on how many iPhones Verizon sells and how much people use their voice and data network.

In any case, this is a win-win situation for consumers. Those of us who want an iPhone now have a choice of carriers and more competition between the carriers is good for the consumer.

Last Minute Gifts

If you are anything like me, you have not yet finished your Christmas shopping. So here are a few ideas for some easy — “you don’t even have to leave the computer” gifts.

First, on this year’s easy list is magazines. I don’t know if you have noticed, but with print media in trouble, the price of magazines is at an all time low. Order online and give them a certificate with your present. They won’t mind as this is a gift that will be coming for the whole year.

Santa 2010

Then there is always the old standby — flowers. I don’t know any woman who would complain about receiving them and there is always a big thrill in welcoming them at the door.  Even last minute gift-givers can do flowers with companies like 1-800-flowers.com. Click on this link for their holiday specials.

Put smiles at the center of your Holiday! Save 15% on Christmas Flowers and Holiday Gifts at 1-800-FLOWERS.COM. Promo Code: XMAS15 - 95x95
Put smiles at the center of your Holiday! Save 15% on Christmas Flowers and Holiday Gifts at 1-800-FLOWERS.COM. Promo Code: XMAS15 - 95x95

And for those of you who want something special, check out QVC. They have special delivery options that let you order until almost the last minute. They will bill you and ship to your loved one, and they have a 30-day no-questions-asked return policy. Or — if you are really last minute, a gift card is always welcome!

Give the Gift of Laughter

Last year I suggested that you visit the JibJab website to create an ElfYourself card. This is a free Christmas card that allows you to easily upload a picture of yourself or your recipient  to create a hilarious dancing elf.

This year I’m going to suggest that you check our some of JibJabs other holiday cards as well. Just click on the picture below, then click on “View all E-cards” to see the large variety of cards that JibJab offers.

Many of the cards let you put yourself or your friends in the cards. All are animated, all have wonderful artistry, and all are hilarious!

You can get a subscription to JibJab cards for a year for only $12. They not only have holiday cards, but they also have cards for every occasion.  If you know someone who needs a little cheering up this year, these cards will do the trick. They will also make you smile as well. I love the idea of giving something that everyone is sure to enjoy!
You can see one of my JibJab cards on my Facebook wall at http://www.facebook.com/sandy.berger . If you are not already my Facebook friend — just ask and I’ll add you.

JibJab eCards
JibJab eCards

Instant Domain Name Search

What’s in a name? Well, actually quite a bit. Your name is your branding and on the Internet, it is the way people find you. Choosing the right domain name is essential. Yet, with millions and millions of names already taken, finding a good domain name for your website can be a daunting experience.

PCNames.com is a website that lets you check for the availability of any domain name. Just type in the name you want to check and you will be instantly told whether or not it is available. You can create a domain name search for .com, .net, .org, .info, .biz, .us, .mobi and .name domain names. Since results are instantaneous, you don’t have to waste a lot of time. Each search goes quickly and easily.

The PC Names website will also save your searches and let you save favorites. These are useful tools that can help you keep track of your findings. It eliminates the usual scribbling down of possible names and having to try to decipher your own handwriting later. The Tools area of this website also has a very useful tool called the Domain Generator which will generate domain names using a combination of two words. This can really come in handy when you are at your wit’s end to try to come up with a useful name.

The PCNames.com FAQ section will answer any questions that you may have about domain names.You can learn the meanings of common Internet terms like domain name, IP address, DNS (domain name server), domain certification, and parked domains. You can also use this FAQ area to get explanations of how to purchase and renew domain names as well as how much they will cost.

The PC Names website will also save your searches and let you save favorites. These are great features that can help you keep track of your findings. The Tools area of this website also has a very useful tool called the Domain Generator which will generate domain names using a combination of two words. This can really come in handy when you are at your wit’s end to try to come up with just the right name.

Check out PCnames.com whenever you need a new domain name. It can be helpful for any domain search that you need to perform

Low Tech Meets High Tech in the Woogie

The Griffin Woogie

Just looking at the Woogie, you might be hard pressed to guess what it is and what it does. The bright green color, soft snuggly fabric, and free form shape may indicate that it is for a child.  But most of us would never suspect that this low tech looking thing was for a high tech toy. You see, the Woogie is actually a huggable case and speaker system for iPod touch or an iPhone.

For many parents, the Woogie is the answer to the question “Can I play with your iPhone?”It is a protective case for an iPhone or an iPod touch that allows parents to turn their iPhone over to the kids to let them play. Beware, however, parents may have trouble getting their iPhone back, as the kids that I showed this to just loved it.

There is also a special iPhone and iPod app that works with the Woogie. This app provides an interactive early reading experience with Sesame Street books. The app reads each story out loud and allows parents and kids to record their own voices. The sample app is free and parents also have access to 150 more titile that are Woogie-ready and available from the Apple App Store under the name Iceberg Kids.

The Woogie is a unique and very useful toy made by Griffin.

Woogie The Huggable Case and Media Player for iPod touch and iPhone


iPhone or Android

Those of you who follow me know that I recently moved from AT&T to Verizon and from an iPhone to a Droid X. Well, now that Verizon is selling the iPad, it looks like they will also be having the iPhone soon. Wall Street Journal and others are betting that the iPhone will make its appearance on the Verizon network in the first quarter of 2011.

I made it clear that I am happier with Verizon than I was with AT&T, so several people have asked me if I would want move back to an iPhone when Verizon gets it. Unless the iPhone has some updating, the answer is no. I find the Android phone easier to use and much more customizable.

The one place that the iPhone’s excels is that their dual cameras are better than any Android that I’ve seen. After that, Android phones compare admirably or come out on top.

For instance, the Retina display on the iPhone is fantastic. However, in a side-by-side comparison, the Super OLED screens on the Samsung Galaxy phones are almost equal. The iPhone is very thin and sleek, but it has a glass screen. Being just a tad clutzy sometimes, I would rather have a screen that is a little more drop-proof.

The Android phone’s let you organize things and let multi-task more easily than the iPhone. And for me, the bottom line is that the Android lets you customize everything. With the Andoid operating system you can have 7 home pages and you can put just about anything anywhere. That allows you to create a system of organization that let’s you access what you need quickly and easily.

I sure that Apple is working to improve the iPhone and in the future, it might be better than the Android phones. But for right now. Andoid is my choice!

Social Media Addiction

Are we becoming a society that misses out on the real world because we are so focused on the online world of social media? Here’s how I see it.

This morning, I arrived at my bank about 10 minutes before it opened. I stood in front of the bank building breathing the fresh clean autumn air and was enthralled by the sun glistening on the leaves of the three magnificent magnolia trees across the street. I turned my attention to the autumn color bursting forth from several other trees as I wondered about how they kept the entire area so pristine.  Several early morning exercise-seeking walkers and joggers greeted me with a hearty “good morning”. It was truly a magnificent morning.

A few minutes after I arrived at the bank a young man drove up in his truck. He was quite obviously also waiting for the bank to open. I noticed that he was intent on thumb typing on his smart phone. At exactly 9 am when he emerged from his truck I asked what he had been doing. He replied that he was checking his Facebook page and accessing Twitter on his smart phone.

This is the regrettable side effect of today’s technology.  While this fellow was engaged in social media on his phone, he was missing the real world and real people.

His actions are quite typical of twenty- and thirty- somethings in today’s world. At a garage sale that I held recently, I had a lot of wonderful people who were friendly and talkative, but I also had several young people who never even said hello to me because they were engaged in conversations on their cell phones. I also recently met a girl who said she went into a panic because she found herself in a line at the grocery store and was without her cell phone. She would normally check her Facebook and Twitter pages if she found herself with a few extra minutes of time. In fact, she routinely checked her Facebook and Twitter pages whenever she was stopped at a red light.

I realize that online social media is a big draw today. In fact, you can hardly be in business today if you don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account.  Where five years ago we were seeing advertising with Internet addresses everywhere, today we are seeing advertising with “See our Facebook Page” at the bottom.

Everyone is flocking to these websites where you befriend and follow people. You may know these people in real life, but more often than not, they are simply online acquaintances.  Getting to know these people and to communicate with them can be great fun. I have a ton of Facebook friends and several of them have even turned out to be friends in the real world. But when these online relationships become so important that we miss the beauty of the real world and interactions with real people, it seems that it is a case of technology gone wrong.

Every day I see teenagers so engaged with texting on their cell phones that they walk out into traffic. I see people who drive poorly because they are talking on the cell phone.  I see people in the grocery store having a conversation through their Bluetooth ear piece while ignoring the other people in the store and while actually aggravating others with their loud conversations with their invisible friends.

I love technology, but we need to control technology rather than have it control us. The use of social media can become an addiction. We need to engage in the real world. And we need to teach our children that online relationships can never replace real relationships.

Please feel free to add your comments. I’d love to know what you all think.


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