Sony preps iPod Shuffle 'killer'

Slimline 1GB Flash jobs with 50 hours' playback

Sony will next month ship its 'iPod Shuffle killer', a compact Flash-based music player with up to 1GB of storage.

Sony NW-50x series (top) and NW-10x series (bottom)What distinguishes the Sony product - apart from the distinctly disposable lighter styling - is the integration of an OLED read-out into the player's casing. The device doesn't have a screen as such - track details, the time and tuner station information - appear on the surface of the player.

Sony will offer two models, one with an FM tuner (NW-E50x) and one without (NW-40x), both in 512MB and 1GB versions, and each available in a range of colours, including... er... "froth tea silver" if our translation software is to be believed. Other colours include midnight black, ocean blue, rose pink and olive green. A limited edition gold version is on the cards too.

In addition to the usual Sony support for ATRAC 3 and ATRAC 3 Plus, the players will support MP3 natively.

The unit measures 8.5 x 2.9 x 1.4cm and weighs 47g. While it connects via USB, the player appears to have a non-standard connector, so it won't connect directly to a PC's USB port, just the bundled cable.

Sony claims the devices will operate for a staggering 50 hours on a single charge, but that's when playing back 105Kbps ATRAC 3 files in "power saving mode". It's not clear what this mode is - presumably it's with no EQ and the display turned off. Still, it's a big leap over the Shuffle's 18-hour play time.

If it's long playback times you want, Sony also announced today a 70-hour capable player, the NW-E10x, available with 256MB, 512MB and 1GB of Flash storage. Unlike the NW-E40x and NW-E50x, the circular-shaped NW-10x is powered by a AA battery rather than an internal rechargeable cell, charged over by USB. It too is available in a range of colours: silver, blue, "velvet" and orange.

The NW-10x will ship on 21 March for ¥10,000 (256MB NW-E103), ¥14,000 (512MB NW-E105) and ¥20,000 (1GB NW-E105). The radio-less NW-E405 (512MB) and NW-E407 (1GB) will retail for around ¥17,000 ($162/£85) and ¥22,000 ($209/£109), respectively, on 21 April. So will the FM-capable NW-E505 (512MB) and NW-E507 (1GB), for around ¥20,000 ($190/£99) and ¥25,000 ($238/£124), respectively. ®

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