As flash memory card capacity increases exponentially and prices fall equally fast, manufacturers are looking for new ways to innovate. SanDisk, one of the world’s biggest makers of memory products, has partnered with the Billboard charts in order to compete with music players like the iPod. The SanDisk slotRadio is a small, stylish player that comes bundled with a micro SD flash card pre-loaded with 1000 chart-topping songs for just USD$99.99. It’s certainly great value, but the big drawback is the music won’t play on anything else.

Actually, the slotRadio is probably perfect for people who like the idea of having a personal music player but find the prospect of downloading songs, creating playlists and filling a music player a little terrifying. There’s absolutely no work involved with the slotRadio. You just pop the card into the player and – bingo – you’ve got 1000 songs to listen to.

Mind you, you can only listen to them in a pre-set order and, while you can skip forward, you can never go back. (To make this a little more palatable, however, each pre-loaded card is divided into seven playlists, so you’ll only have to skip forward 142 songs to repeat one.) Playback is unlimited, but you also can’t copy or even view song and playlist files.

The burning question, though, is what’s the music like? There are seven cards currently available, one each for rock, country, r&b/hip-hop, oldies, 80s and 90s, slotRadio mix (a bit of a sampling of everything) and daily mix (divided into vague playlists like BBQ and Workout). To give you a better idea, the rock one includes artists like Beck, Bon Jovi, Coldplay, Elvis Costello, Eric Clapton, Live, Soundgarden, Squeeze, Steely Dan, System of a Down, The Killers and The Who. However, you also get Bryan Adams, Duran Duran, Fall Out Boy, No Doubt and Tears for Fears. So it’s a mixed bag, to say the least. But, when you’re getting 1000 songs for just USD$39.99 or USD$49.99, do you care?

Even better in terms of value for money, though, is to buy the player. You get the 2-inch x 2-inch die-cast aluminum player with 1.5-inch OLED screen, built-in FM radio, recharger, ear buds, USB cable and 1000-song slotRadio mix card for just USD$99.99. It’s not surprising it was chosen ‘Best of Show’ at the 2009 Flash Memory Summit.

The only question remaining is: how much freedom of choice are consumers willing to cede for the sake of a bargain?