Sony Walkman NWZ-E436F music and video player
Budget iPod Nano beater
Review With the release of the A-series Walkman, Sony finally bid a probably less-than-fond farewell to its ATRAC and SonicStage past. Now with the release of the B-, E- and S-class Walkman players, Sony is fleshing out the range.
At the bottom of the pile sits the stick-style B series with either 1GB or 2GB of storage. Next comes the 4GB E, followed by the 8GB and 16GB S, and then the Bluetooth-enabled A line with a choice of 4, 8 or 16GB of storage.
Sony's Walkman NWZ-E436F: Walkman 'nano', in other words
With Apple's iPod Nano heading upmarket – the cheapest model available direct from Apple is now the £109 8GB model – the £69 NWZ-E436F may just be the right player at the right time and at the right price to deliver Sony some serious budget video-player sales.
Design-wise, it's clear the E shares a blood line with the A. At 50g, it's 15g lighter than the A, and at 83.9 x 44 x 8.5mm, it's smaller and thinner too. That reduced size means a smaller screen size: 2in and 240 x 320, down from the 2.4in same resolution item on the A. Otherwise, it's a case of if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
The main controls below the screen are the now typical-for-Sony play/pause key surrounded by a four-way ring control to move up and down, back and forward. This cluster is flanked by Option - read 'menu' - and Back keys, respectively doubling-up for on/off and Home controls.
Not quite a Nano-like colour selection, though
The right side of the player is home to the volume rocker and the lock slider, while at the bottom you will find a 3.5mm headphones socket and a proprietary USB port - not a problem so long as you don't lose the cable. A tiny re-set button lurks around the back.
HDD based mobile players use the drive very little unless you are changing tracks manually and often (but then its in the hand and not being 'banged about'). The speed of HDD reads means you can read a lot of music and play it from cache. Thus the drive is bursting data and spinning down - making hdd work in handheld devices was a done deal before the ipod, the reason you don't see many anymore is due to solid state price decreases.
If people cared about music and stopped compressing the hell out of everything, hdd players would still be around.
I've got an 8GB Sony Walkman NWZ-A8178 and the build quality is fantastic, it feels completely solid and is finished in a metal case. The sound quality that I get from the earphones that I got with it is brilliant, plenty of bass and with clear high pitches. It's the easiest to use mp3 player that I've ever had, the menu system is so fast and logical, no stupid messing about with a stupid scrolly wheel thing like an iPod or whatever. It's so easy to use that I can use it whilst it's still in my pocket, I don't even need to see the screen. Oh and the screen is brilliant clear and bright, even outdoors. My last mp3 player (a Philips one) had such a bad screen that with any sunlight you couldn't see a thing on the screen. And best of all - it was only £72.
I love Atrac too (it is a superior codec), but get with the times mate. Sony HAS to do this to get back in the game and I am glad they did. SQ wise they still kick Apple's ass even when using lossy MP3.
re: No HDD models?
Why does nobody make HDD-based players? Well, it's a little-known fact, but hard drives have an actual "platter" that needs to spin at relatively fast speed, and they have "read/write heads" which travel dangerously close to these "platters". If the device is bumped, you'll damage the disk.
But seriously, the risk of damage to a hard drive used in a player that's meant to be bumped around (and often in constant motion during exercise) is just too great. Not to mention the extra power required to spin the disk and move the read/write heads would reduce your battery life.
As for this device, the line "Build quality is up to Sony's usual high standards" was all I needed to hear. I know I'm not the only one who has noticed Sony's quality turn to pooh over the last decade or so. Sony USED to be known top-quality A/V gear. Now you pay for that reputation, but the quality is conspicuously lacking.
No HDD models?
Why does no-one apart from Apple make hard disk players these days? i don't want to be swopping music on and off my player and I'm keeping my eyes open for a replacement for when my RockBox-ed iriver H160 dies.