Despite the dominance of the iPod (which really goes to show how brand-awareness and keeping up with the Joneses can drive a product line forward) other manufacturers persist in producing MP3 players. There are numerous reasons for this, but quite possibly one of the main ones is that iPod are ridiculously priced, thanks to their brand name. Let’s be honest here — the iPod is fantastic, yes, and it looks great. It delivers good audio too. But the only reason that it has become essentially the de facto portable music player is because there is a hell of a lot of status attached to owning one. And who doesn’t enjoy that?

That really is the issue with some of the other MP3 players out there. People will look down their noses at you if it’s not made by Apple. The performance is probably as good (in the case of some) and the price is probably much better, but instead of lauding you for making a smart purchasing decision, people will deride you because you’re not part of the in-crowd.

Take the SanDisk Sansa Fuze+, as an example. SanDisk may not be extremely famous for their MP3 players, but they are renowned for their memory cards… and what is an MP3 player really, other than a music player attached to flash memory?

This 8GB device is wonderfully versatile, capable of audio and video playback (via a 2.4 inch screen). It features a built in FM radio, an expansion slot for more memory (thanks to the microSD and microSDHC support it has) and a built in microphone. It’s battery will last for up to 24 hours of audio playback, and its capacitive touch controls are responsive and accurate. And the audio quality? Well, it is really very good.

It has a few features that iPods lack, as anyone in the know can see – even just the expandable memory is a huge bonus. In fact, the only thing that doesn’t elevate it to iPod status is that it doesn’t have an apple on it somewhere, which is just plain ridiculous. And the cost? $69.99, which is really rather reasonable. Sure, there are cheaper players out there, but this one delivers good quality and versatility, backed by a reputable name.

So, if you are not one of those who needs to make a statement with the labels you wear and carry around, the SanDisk Sansa Fuze + is a great option for a music player. It comes with a soft cloth carry case and a fairly decent set of earbud headphones, too, as well as a USB cable to connect it to a PC for charging and file transfers. It also features a fairly stylish design, and controls that are responsive easy to use and sensibly placed.

All in all, it’s a very decent option, and the SanDisk Sansa Fuze+ MP3 player is something that you should consider if you are in the market for a portable music player. Unless, of course, if you are a slave to brands.

Verdict: It might not be the coolest brand on the block, but it is a good performer.