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Sony counters iPod Shuffle with the Bean

Is it a runner?

Sony has launched a curvy, palm-sized portable music player dubbed, not inappropriately, the Bean.

Sony Walkman BeanWe'll resist the opportunity to suggest the Japanese giant's move is somewhat half-baked. Instead, we'll point out that the design is certainly more Mister Bean than Sean Bean.

More formally monikered the NW-E205, the 512MB Flash-based Network Walkman Bean supports Sony's own ATRAC3 Plus format and MP3. It's available in four colours: blue (aka 'Tropical Ice'), pink (Cotton Candy), black (Licorice) and white (Coconut), all selected to suggest jellybean styling rather than a more haricot heritage. The unit has a one-line OLED screen.

The Bean has its own, integrated USB connector for both song transfer and battery charging. The built-in Lithium Ion cell yields 50 hours' playback time, Sony said, though that presumably assumes you're playing 48kbps ATRAC3 files. The battery requires only three minutes' charging to provide three hours' playback, though a full charge will take rather longer.

In addition to the 512MB NW-E205, Sony is offering the 1GB NW-E207, with the same choice of colours.

Both models are due to ship mid-September. The NW-205 will retail for £79, the NW-E207 for £99. ®

Sony Walkman Bean

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