The dial also serves as a volume control, and while we prefer dedicated buttons, there's an easy way to return to the playback screen (more on this later). The dial also glows a cool blue when activated. You select using the big button in the centre of the wheel, which in turn is surrounded by traditional player-control buttons. The bottom of these buttons serves as a context menu. For instance, in playback mode, you can adjust playback and equaliser settings or add songs to a playlist. If there is one complaint about the layout, it's that the four surrounding buttons can feel cramped and occasionally you won't know if you actually pressed a button. The central select button can feel jiggly too.
The only other button on the face of the Sansa e200 is the power/menu button. Pressing the button always takes you back to the main menu; another press takes you back to whatever mode you were last in. This is handy, and it keeps you from navigating backwards clumsily, as one often does with an iPod. Moreover, there's no need to hold down a multifunction button for a few seconds to get to the menu, a common negative found on many fully featured flash players. This button is easily accessible if you're using it with your right hand, given its lower left corner location. Left-handed use tends to become uncomfortable.
A record button resides on the left edge of the Sansa e200. Pressing it instantly takes you to the voice-record function and starts the recording without further ado. This lightning-quick response transforms the device into a useful voice recorder in the real world.
The Sansa e200's right edge features a first: a tiny microSD slot, which can accept the latest 1GB microSD cards (these aren't widely available in the UK yet, but 512MB cards are around £35-£40). The bottom of the unit features a proprietary dock connector, where you fit the USB cable and other accessories that SanDisk claims will be hitting the market soon after launch. Thanks to SanDisk's market push (as of December 2005, the company is second in the flash market, with 14 per cent, according to NPD), third-party accessory makers may jump in and provide useful accessories. The top of the device includes a hold switch, a microphone hole and a headphone jack.
The back of the Sansa e200 is made of a strong, virtually unscratchable metal alloy. You'll notice four screws that can be undone so that users can actually replace the lithium-ion battery themselves -- without breaking the guarantee. This characteristic gives the e200 a mobile-phone-like feel. SanDisk has no price set for replacement batteries, but having this option available is a huge benefit.