Fighting Talk: Apple iPod v SanDisk Sansa

Two writers. Two products. Two very different opinions.

Hundreds of millions of Apple iPods have been sold worldwide , while SanDisk's flash-based Sansa players are the indie-boy's gadget nomad of choice. We've pitched two of our writers head-to-head to decide, once and for all, whether the Apple iPod is better than the competition. This is Rob Mead vs James Rivington. iPod vs Sansa. Let the fighting talk begin!

In the red corner: the SanDisk Sansa

For me, the choice between an Apple iPod and a SanDisk Sansa is really no choice at all. Regarding the iPod, how this severely handicapped device ever became so popular is a mystery to me. Sure, the iPod is sexy as hell, it looks great and it's pleasant to use. But that doesn't change the fact that the iPod is a wheelchair-bound geeky freakfest of a device.

The iPod queues at the gadget world post office every Friday morning to pick up its disability allowance. And it's not this way due to some tragic accident, either. Steve Jobs and his Apple cronies have deliberately locked down the iPod and its iTunes software so that it's incompatible with other services and products. They've crippled it because they want to squeeze as much cash out of you as legally possible. That's not cool.

If you buy an iPod, you're instantly limited to using only the iTunes Store as a source of online music, and if you use the iTunes Store you're instantly limited to only using an iPod. You won't be able to use it with more than one computer either. As soon as you've used it with your home PC or Mac, then that's the only computer that the iPod will recognise forever. Or until you reformat it. To buy an iPod is to severely limit your gadgety MP3 enjoyment.

Which brings me nicely on to the merits of SanDisk's Sansa MP3 players. While the iPod is the communist Joseph Stalin of the MP3 world, the Sansa is the liberal indie-style Mahatma Gandhi. It shares all the merits of the iPod but sports a feature list which puts its Apple cousin to shame. It's free in a thousand ways that the iPod is not.

For a start, it has its own clickwheel-style navigation method and a menu system every bit as intuitive as the iPod's. It's a pleasure to use and that's a good start. But looking past these factors, the Sansa begins to show its deeper strength. It's not locked down like an iPod. It acts as a mass storage device, so you can use it with any Mac or PC, and copy tracks onto and from any source. Can't do that with an iPod. It plays a variety of DRM formats too. Can't do that with an iPod. Plus, you can use it to store any file type you like, just like a USB memory stick. Want to do that with your iPod? Tough, you can't.

And apart from that, it's also a flash player which makes it lighter and more compact than your average iPod. It has superior battery life, and it plays videos (which the flash-based iPods cannot do) and has an integrated FM radio, which the iPod doesn't have either. You can use its internal microphone to record audio and radio songs. You can also expand its 8GB memory with the microSD expansion slot in its side. Plus, the new Sansa Connect has Wi-Fi, which means you can download music wirelessly from the web. And compared to the iPod, it's cheap too. Winner!

James Rivington

In the blue corner: the Apple iPod video

OK let's get the bad stuff out of the way first - yes the iPod is so popular it's verging on the naff. Yes the early models were plagued by terrible battery life. And yes, the latest models are far too scratch-prone. But I still love my iPod anyway. Here's why: