Back in the day, Sony was master of portable music players. So much so, in those hazy times you didn’t carry a “portable music player”, you carried a Walkman. Then in breezed Apple and the world no longer carried Walkmans – the world carried iPods.
But Sony is fighting back. Its NW-S200 series delivers style-heavy looks – that much the Japanese maker has pretty much regularly delivered – and a wheel-buckling barrow-load of specification backs up the pretty visuals.
Luke, I am your MP3 player
The S205F is the 2GB machine of the family – there’s also a 512MB and 1GB available – and the design stands out from the often maddeningly similar MP3 crowd. We reckon at least one member of the Sony design team must own the Star Wars box set – this is surely the first MP3 player to double as Action Man’s light sabre.
Some members of the Stuff review team found the user interface a touch tricky to master – those that didn’t obviously laughed in their foolish faces – but all eventually got to grips with the single-handed navigation. The player’s spine sits in the palm of your hand, leaving your thumb and forefinger to select and twist the collar – when it comes to physical navigation this is one of the few players to rival the iPod range.
Up against its (small) big rival, Apple’s Shuffle, the Sony lands some serious blows: unlike the Shuffle’s blank look you get a display. OK, we’re not talking a video screen – this range doesn’t handle picture files and the screen is way too small – but there’s sufficient information to help you swiftly locate your target tune.
Count the sporty features
Sporting types (including those that actually take part in exercise as opposed to the usual dangerously obese wearers of training gear) will perspire at the thought of the exercise-friendly features.
There’s a sweat-tackling armband – so no need to splash £20 on a bit of elastic, then – and the player is water-resistant, too. The Sony can count your steps, and the “shake to switch” feature niftily changes tracks without you losing your rhythm.
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Up and running (the player, not us lazy sorts) the S205F sounds like other recent Sony portables. Fed via the bundled SonicStage software there’s big bass and lashings of rhythm – if you need encouragement to pound the pavements this up-front sound should soon get you wobbling.
The inability to handle protected AAC or WMA removes some gloss, as does Sony’s “not as good as iTunes” software, but the overall feature count here helps make up. Yes, this is one player we’d happily shove down our jean pockets – and when it comes to gadgets, at least, we are quite fussy.