Sony Walkman NW-A800 media player
The Walkman enters the digital video arena...
Despite the awkwardly placed connecter, Sony has pulled out the stops when it comes to the bundled earphones. Rather than just throw in a cheap pair, the included noise-isolating earbuds sound great. They block out external noise and three sleeves are included to cater for different sized ears. The result is excellent bass reproduction usually only found on more expensive earphones or larger headphones.
The NW-A800 is very flexible on the file formats it supports - in addition to Sony's own Atrac format it's also happy to play back MP3, WMA and AAC files without the need for conversion. It won't support encrypted WMA or AAC files, such as those bought from Napster or iTunes though. If online music purchasing is your thing, then you'll have to use Sony's own Connect store instead.
It's also reasonably up to speed on video formats, with support for iPod-friendly MPEG-4 video files and AVC Baseline files as well. Conversion from other formats, such as DivX or Xvid, is handled by a bundled PC application. Conversion time will depend on the speed of your PC, but on a decent machine it'll take around one minute to convert a minute of video.
There's a range of tuning options available: the graphic equaliser has four presets available and also a user-programmable custom mode so you can get exactly the sound you're after. Sony has also included its own Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE) technology, which claims to be able to restore high frequency ranges lost due to compression, although the effects weren't particularly noticeable on the MP3s I used.
Audio playback is very good, with the NW-A800 able to handle both laid back jazz such as Miles Davis and more dancier tracks such as the Chemical Brothers equally well.
Video playback is less impressive, mostly due to the tiny screen size. Clips play fine, with no noticeable dropped frames and the display is sufficiently bright and clear - it's just there isn't enough of it to make it that enjoyable an experience.
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