We found the sound of the E just a little raucous out of the box, but once we moved the EQ settings to Pop, things improved mightily. A few moments' more spent fiddling with the equaliser paid even bigger dividends, resulting a sound that was firm, focused and nicely balanced.
No Ogg or FLAC - or even ATRAC support
Video playback is supported up to 30f/s 320 x 240, and the device can be set to play in landscape as well as portrait, but customers without suitable software will need to cough up £6 to enable the transcoding feature on the bundled Sony Media Manager software. We thought this was taking the proverbial when we came across it while reviewing the A-class Walkman, and time and tide have not changed our opinion.
The E is one of the media players supported by BBC iPlayer downloads. By way of a quick test, we downloaded the 25f/s file of episode 4 of Little Dorrit, and while it was perfectly watchable it did look rather jerky. Still, who buys a 2in-screen MP3 player to watch Dickens adaptations?
The E has gumption enough to load as either an MTP or mass-storage device depending on the host, and for Windows users there's also a handy little Content Transfer app on the bundled CD. This is a small window that can be pinned on top of your other applications that allows you drag and drop content directly from iTunes or Windows Media Player. It's effectiveness is a little stunted by the fact that you can't drag artists or albums across, only the actual tracks, leading to a lot of shift-selecting. But it is handy for iTunes users who don't want to have to rummage about in their iTunes folder trying to find just where the hell it has put the other half of that album...
Sony in 'working well with iTunes' shock
But spare a thought for the poor Sony staffers who had to develop software to allow their Walkman players to cosy up to iTunes. The humiliation must have been unbearable, akin to being sent to a convent school outside Heidelberg to spend the rest of the war teaching the young girls home economics.
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.