Sony’s A Series Walkmans have worked hard to make themselves attractive alternatives to the iPod Nano. They’ve dumped SonicStage for Windows Media Player, added video playing and, with the A826, trumped their Cupertino foe with built-in Bluetooth audio streaming.

Now, the A829B has arrived with a Nano-matching 16GB storage. It also comes with a fine-sounding pair of cabled ear-buds, unlike its 4GB and 8GB siblings, which come with Sony’s DR-BT21GB Bluetooth headphones. Thank God. We’ve heard better acoustics from a shoelace and two tins than we got from those.

No Bluetooth cans

If you insist on Bluetooth cans, then buy your own and let us know when you find a decent sounding pair. We won’t hold our breath. Not that you’ll need them – wired-up, the Sony bangs out a wholesome sound. You’re unlikely to need the ‘heavy’ EQ setting for more bass, as there’s plenty of drive.

On the subject of EQ, finding your way around this machine is thumb-stabbingly simple. Of course, this is partly due to its lack of features when compared to rivals such as the Creative Zen X-Fi – beyond Bluetooth, you’re talking standard ‘sound and vision’ fare. Fans of feature-heavy machines should skip determinedly past the NWZ-A829B shelf.

A vision to behold

But devotees of leading performance should stop in their tracks.  Aside from excellent sound quality,

the A829B also slaps you round the face with thoroughly good video replay. For a 2.4in widescreen, moving images are surprisingly watchable and even fast movement looks smooth and detailed. Slightly punchier colours are pretty much all we could reasonably ask for.

Transferring your tunes is also much easier than previous A series players. Sony provides Media Manager software, but you’re better off using Windows Media Player. For video, you’ll need transcoding software – Image Converter’s a paid-for extra.

Twenty sheets also buys you a mains charger, which means you can quickly add to the A829’s already impressive battery replay figures of 36 hours of tunes and 10 hours of video.

Considering the A829 comes with the best bundled earphones of any of its rivals – bar possibly the Creative Zen X-Fi – surely it’s the best small PMP on the planet? Well, almost. The only real problem is the price – it costs £50 more than the iPod Nano with the same storage – so it all depends on how much you prize that bigger screen and stereo Bluetooth.


Stuff says... 

Sony NWZ-A829B review

Its feature count is low, but this Sony does the sound and vision basics outstandingly well