Sony NW-E205 'Bean' digital music Walkman
Review Sony's Bean - or the NW-W205, to give it is proper title - is a 512MB MP3 player that breaks away from the conventional flat and slim Flash player form-factor. This makes it perfect for clenching in your fist when you go for a run, but will create a curious bulge in a pair of trousers when out and about.
Laid on a desk, the top and bottom are void of any buttons, with Sony opting to place them on only one side of the player. We say buttons, but in reality its really only one button: a d-pad that controls volume, track selection, play, stop, as well as the navigation around the menu system.
Track information is displayed on a single OLED screen integrated into the case next to the button. The Bean also differs from quite a few other MP3 players by building the USB connector into the unit itself to allow quick connection to a PC for charging and transferring songs.
Rather than rely on a bit of rubber to protect the USB connector, Sony has spring loaded the plug to hide in the unit when not in use. It makes you realise how small the unit could have been without this. But, like the iPod Shuffle, its good to have the connector on board all the time.
This is where the player's main problem rears its ugly head. The cover that hides the USB connector also acts as the hold button. Slide it all the way closed and the controls are frozen - something that is handy when in your pocket. However, to access the controls you've got to slide the cover just enough to get it off the hold marker, but not so far that the cover slides back entirely and reveals that spring-loaded plug. Why Sony couldn't have just added a separate hold button is beyond us and the whole experience left us frustrated.
Beyond the design, the sound quality is very good using the bundled headphones. The player offers just bass and treble settings to adjust the sound to suit your personal taste, rather than a heap of equaliser pre-sets that often all sound alike.
Transfer to and from the device is done using Sony's Sonic Stage software and nothing else. It's the same old argument - you either love it or hate it.
This is a good player hampered really only by the frustrating hold button, which drove us mad. The charge time was very good - three minutes amazingly gives you three hours' playback. A full charge yields 50 hours of music, Sony promises.
The sound is good and if you are looking for an MP3 player to use while on a run, the kidney bean shape will certainly be more comfortable to hold in the palm.