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Sony Walkman NWZ A840
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15 July 2010
By: Alex Vochin, Gadgets Editor
Sony Boosts WALKMAN A840 Storage to 64GB, Adds White Version
Providing plenty of space for one's multimedia files
When we've reviewed the A845 ultra-slim OLED Walkman from Sony a while ago, we were sort of surprised by the fact that the manufacturer had only provided the player with a fairly limited amount of memory, at least according to today's standards. However, it seems that Sony's decided to offer its customers more space for their content, and pushed the available storage capabilities of the A840 series up to an impressive 64GB.
Sony boosts WALKMAN A840's storage space Sony
So, beside being able to take advantage of the features that made this series famous (such as the 2.8-inch OLED screen, S-Master Digital Amplifier technology and built-in Digital Noise Cancelling), users will also be able to store up to 15,000 songs or 244 hours of video within the 64GB memory of NWZ-A847. Of course, if that's too much, they can also opt for the A846 (32GB) or the aforementioned A845 (16GB). However, that's not the only surprise Sony's provided us with on the Walkman front. No, in fact the Japanese company has also decided to offer users a fresh new white colour option, which quite a lot of people will most likely find extremely interesting (just thing of all the participants to the White Sensations parties, to give a very simple example). Anyway, similar to the E450 Walkman, also released today, Sony has not provided any pricing details regarding the upgraded A840 versions, just telling us that we'll have to wait until August in order to get to see these things first hand.
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15 December 2009
By: Alex Vochin, Gadgets Editor
Sony Walkman E-Series NWZ-E443 Multimedia Player Review
A very interesting offering for the entry/mid-range level
You know, there are times when we really have a grudge with Sony, and not because of the quality of its products or some issues related to its marketing strategy, but simply because, in some cases, it makes it somewhat tougher for people to opt for a certain item by implementing all sorts of different (yet equally attractive) functions over a wide range of devices. This is exactly what it has done with the Walkman range of portable multimedia players, and since talking about a single model from this family didn't really seem to do these gadgets justice, we decided to take somewhat of a tour of the entire series. So, after testing Sony's Walkman X Series NWZ-X1050 OLED and S-Series NWZ-S739F models, we wanted to try out a more entry-level/mid-range product, namely the NWZ-E443, which, as you can probably tell by taking a look at its name, is a part of the Japanese company's E series. To be perfectly accurate, the model we tested is part of the latest-generation E series models, the E440 range, that arrived onto the market in mid-2009 and that we had the chance of briefly encountering during our visit at IFA 2009. Now, as we've mentioned above, despite the fact that it's not exactly one of the top-range Walkman products, at least in terms of design and part of the available features, the E-Series model we tested does come packed with certain features that we would have liked to see in upper-range versions as well. Plus, as things usually stand with Sony's players, the quality of the audio playback is quite impressive, the device delivering encompassing, crisp and powerful sound, even when using the speakers provided right in the sales package. In any case, that's as far as we'll go for the time being, so you'll have to move on to the next chapter in order to find out more about this Walkman model. [[BREAK=Aesthetics and Design]] Overall design features As far as the external appearance is concerned, the closest relative to the E series model is the S-series device mentioned in the previous chapter. However, when compared to the NWZ-S739F, the NWZ-E443 looks slightly bulkier, in spite of the fact that the other dimensions are more or less the same. The model we tested had a red + black case, which, in general, is a fairly good combo, at least in terms of portable players. There was some silver thrown in here and there, at least in the logo areas, meant to provide some sense of equilibrium in terms of colors. The one thing that is a bit disappointing about the E series Walkman is the quality of the plastic, which is not exactly fantastic; on the other hand, it's not that horrendously bad, given the price. I mean, sure, we would have loved to see this thing in an all-metal case, but, then again, metallic cases are also more expensive, and this particular device is more
Sony Walkman NWZ-E443 - front view Softpedia
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budget-oriented. Otherwise, the NWZ-E443's overall design is an OK one (for an entry-level/mid-range product), along the design lines imposed by the Japanese company for all of its Walkman products. Size and portability As mentioned above, the E series player feels slightly bulkier than other products from the Walkman family, given the fact that it measures 44 x 86,8 x 9,3 mm. However, the overall weight is not particularly large, since we're only talking about roughly 54 grams. The NWZ-E443 will be quite easy to carry around, even in one's pocket, but, given the slightly larger volume, it's likely that it will need a dedicated pocket, or at least share it with only one other device (such as a mobile phone, although that would make one crowded pocket). However, the fact that it ain't exactly super-slim provides a better grip on the device, at least as far as we're concerned. Controls If you can still remember the "teddy-bear head"-like control system implemented on the S series, you'll be happy to notice that the E series has been equipped with the exact same solution. So, on the front side of the player, we've got the already familiar circular system with four directional arrows and a play-pause/enter button in the middle, accompanied by a back/home button on the left and an option/power off button on the right (these work pretty much the same way as in the case of the S-series, so we won't go into more details at this point). Besides the front-side placed controls, the NWZ-E443 also comes equipped with a volume control button, placed on the right side, and a hold button (right under the volume controls), whose purpose is to ensure that there's no accidental activation while moving around. And. well, that's pretty much it, because the NWZ-E443 doesn't come equipped with built-in noise-canceling technology (or other features requiring external controls). Connectivity Once again, Sony opted for a proprietary connectivity option (the WM-PORT) instead of simply going the way of mini (or even micro) USB. Sure, the official explanation is that, by doing so, the player will be more easily docked into the various accessories the Japanese company has come up with (such as external audio systems or docking stations), but the truth of the matter is that it would have had plenty of space to throw one of the two USB versions mentioned above. The second connector found on the NWZ-E443 is the headphones' jack, placed on the bottom side, in the near vicinity of the WM-PORT. Not exactly sure why it opted for the bottom side and left the top side untouched, but, then again, the overall functionality is not affected by this decision, so there's really no serious reason to question it. Since we're on the bottom side of the player, we'll also have to add that this is where you'll also find the built-in microphone (I know, not exactly a connectivity option per se, but worth mentioning anyway). Yes, it's quite a tiny opening, but it's sufficient in order to allow users to record good audio, which, as far as we're concerned, is one of the most important features this Walkman player has to offer. Taking into account the E-Series' positioning on the market, the lack of built-in Wi-Fi or
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Bluetooth modules shouldn't really come as a surprise, but, to tell you the truth, it's not exactly something that affects the overall functionality of this Walkman series, and you'll be able to read a bit later just what our comment is based on. However, a built-in extension slot (via one of Sony's rather numerous proprietary formats) would have been quite welcomed, especially for those people out there for whom 4GB (or even 16GB, the top capacity available in the E series) is not nearly enough. Display and headphones The Sony Walkman E-Series NWZ-E443 features a 2-inch TFT display with LED backlight, which is pretty good for navigating through the menus and even viewing some short video clips. And I'll have to underline the word "short" here, due to the fact that doing so for longer periods of time will certainly affect one's vision and induce some headaches. Sadly, the display is not touch-enabled, but that was to be expected, given the fact that lower production costs were an important issue when manufacturing this device. [IMG=21][IMG=22] The headphones included in the sales package are fairly decent (both in terms of the external design and the quality of the playback they provide), but, to be perfectly honest, if you really want to enjoy the music listening experience the player is able to provide at a very good level, a third-party set of earphones is recommended (dedicated earphones from Sony should work very well too). [[BREAK=Tech facts]] Connectivity High speed data transfer - Yes; USB connection - Yes; WM-PORT - Yes; Memory Memory size (GB) - 4GB; Holds - Around 1,000 music tracks (at 128kbps) or approx 15 hours video (at 384kbps); Playback & display Dynamic normaliser - Yes (balances the volume level between songs for an easier listening experience); Clear Bass - Yes; Clear Stereo - Yes; DSEE - No; Equaliser - Yes (5 Band); Bass boost - No; Music Searching Methods - Folder / All Songs / Artist / Album / Playlists (created on a PC) / Genre / Release Year / Voice Recording / FM Recording; Music Play Mode - Normal / Shuffle / Repeat/ Shuffle & Repeat / Repeat 1 song / Shuffle all; Video Play Mode - Zoom Settings (Auto/Full/Off), Video Orientation (Vertical/Horizontal (right)), Display (On/Off), Continuous Playback (On/Off); [IMG=68][IMG=69][IMG=70]
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Photo Play Mode - Photo Orientation (Vertical/Horizontal(right)/Horizontal(left)), Display (On/Off), Slide Show Repeat (On/Off), Slide Show Interval (Short / Normal / Long); Drag and drop - Yes; Display resolution - QVGA (240 x 320); Display type - TFT colour display with white LED backlight; Screen size (inch) - 2; Horizontal / Vertical display - Yes; Back-lit display - Yes; [IMG=71][IMG=72][IMG=73] MP3 - Yes; WMA (Non-DRM) - Yes; WMA (DRM) - Yes; AAC-LC (Non-DRM) - Yes; Linear PCM - Yes; JPEG - Yes; MP4 - Yes; AVC (H.264/AVC) - Yes; WMV 9 - Yes; Voice Recording - Yes (MP3 codec); FM Recording - Yes (MP3 codec); FM tuner - Yes (30 station presets); Alarm function and timer - Yes; PC External Storage Device - Yes. [IMG=74][IMG=75][IMG=76] General data Weight (grams) - 54; Battery life - continuous playback music (h) - 30; Battery life - continuous playback video (h) - 6; Charging time (full charge) (h) - 2; Dimensions Width (mm) - 44; Height (mm) - 86,8; Depth (mm) - 9,3. [[BREAK=Real-life performance]] General setup, operation and file transfer In terms of setup and operation, the E series Walkman player doesn't really offer anything particularly out of the ordinary, the menu structure being almost identical to that of the S series device we also tested. So, when switching on the player, you'll be provided with access to the main functions the gadget is able to provide, which we'll also detail as follows. Moreover, users are allowed quite a lot of tweaking freedom, the settings menu letting them tweak pretty much everything about how the player works. Of course, most of the features available here are
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also available from the individual menus, but that's a whole different story. Anyway, one of the issues that really drew our attention here was the extensive time display options, the device allowing users to set the time and date, choose the way in which the time and date are being displayed, and more. These features are related directly to the alarm and timer functions the NWZ-E443 comes equipped with, which are quite an interesting addition to the capabilities of the Walkman player. Moving on to the file transfer issue, we can really say that Sony's got it right here, granting users a level of freedom not available in the case of other players available out there. Hence, despite the fact that is offers its own data transfer software and supports syncing via the Windows Media Player software, the player also offers drag-and-drop capabilities, which, as far as we're concerned, are the easiest and best solution for the issue of getting content (music, videos, photos, etc.) in and out of one's player. Audio playback As we've briefly mentioned above, the audio playback capabilities are what really makes the NWZ-E443 stand out from a crowd, since the player is capable of providing very good quality audio (superior to many more expensive players available out there), either via the headphones included in the package or especially via third-party accessories of this type. [IMG=23][IMG=24][IMG=25][IMG=43] Of course, audio playback settings can be easily customized, allowing users to tweak them in order to better suit their music-listening requirements. Also, the implementation of Sony's Dynamic normaliser, Clear Bass and Clear Stereo technologies contributes to the quality of the audio playback, but since we talked extensively about them in a previous review, we won't go into further details here. [IMG=44][IMG=45][IMG=46][IMG=47] As in the case of the other Walkman players, users will be able to view album cover art while playing music, add the song they're listening to to their wishlist or find out more detailed information about it. Plus, file support is fairly extensive, so it's likely that you won't have to do much converting in order to be able to enjoy your favorite songs on your player. [IMG=48][IMG=49][IMG=50][IMG=51] As expected, the available music is organized in several categories (Album, Artist, Genre, Release Year), but users can also choose the music stored within a specific folder or the available audio recordings (either voice recordings or FM recordings). [IMG=52][IMG=53][IMG=54][IMG=55] However, the NWZ-E443 offers two time-related features not encountered in the case of the other players from Sony we've tested, namely Alarm and Sleep Timer, which permit users to either set a time at which the player is going to start working (Alarm) or a time interval after which the player will automatically shut itself off. [IMG=56][IMG=57][IMG=58][IMG=59] We envision this feature as being particularly useful for those people (and there are quite a few out there) who tend to go to sleep while listening to their favorite music and like to wake up pretty much in the same way. Also, it's very likely that this works best when paired with one of those docking stations we've mentioned above. Video playback The issue of video playback is kind of tricky in the case of the E-Series NWZ-E443 player. I mean, sure, the device has all the necessary pre-requisites in order to play videos at a very good quality (the backlit TFT LCD display, support for AVC H.264/AVC, etc.), but there is one problem, namely that of the actual screen size, of just 2 inches.
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[IMG=60][IMG=61][IMG=62] We tested video playback fairly extensively on the E443, and the results were: a) we were very impressed with the sheer quality of the video clips, which are played seamlessly and accompanied by good audio - of course, depending on the audio source; and b) somewhat of a headache, after staring for quite a long time at the tiny display. [IMG=63][IMG=64] So, our conclusion remains the same as the one issued when talking about the display, namely the fact that this thing is able to provide a great video experience, as long as users watch only relatively short clips and don't go for movies. [IMG=65][IMG=66][IMG=67] As far as the viewing options are concerned, they're pretty much consistent with the other Walkman players, allowing users to choose the display orientation that best suits them, view more detailed information regarding the video being played, zoom in or out of the video, adjust the display brightness and so on. FM Radio and FM recording The presence of the FM radio module is, once again, a feature many people will certainly appreciate about the E-Series NWZ-E443, because some of its more famous competitors (notably, Apple's iPod nano) didn't deliver it until recently. Of course, users can either scan for radio stations or choose from the available preset stations, but, more importantly, they'll also be able to record radio broadcasts much in the same way as they carry out voice recordings. [IMG=26][IMG=27] Accessing the FM recording function is quite fast and easy, which means that users will have little trouble recording songs or favorite radio shows, as long as they're not planning on recording a couple of hours worth of audio (since, especially when the top quality is chosen, the available 4GB of storage space might run out quite quickly). [IMG=28][IMG=29] After finishing the recording, users will be able to access the resulting MP3 audio file from the playback menu, the overall quality of the sound being a fairly OK one, but not something spectacular (don't expect it to be better than MP3 audio files ripped from CDs - it won't). Photo Viewing Besides listening to music and FM radio or watching videos, users will also be able to view some of their favorite photos via the NWZ-E443's tiny display. While we won't comment too much on the quality of the photo viewing experience (quite naturally, a very good one, due to the quality of the backlit TFT LCD display), we'll have to mention that the player offers a fairly high number of photo viewing customization options, especially as far as the available slideshow function is concerned. [IMG=35][IMG=36][IMG=37][IMG=38] So, aside from choosing the best orientation for the photo/photos, users will also be able to choose the desired sliding interval (out of the three available settings - short, normal and long), adjust the display brightness, and so on. However, we'd like to point out that the same problem mentioned in the case of video viewing can easily manifest itself in this case as well. So, sure, you can watch a decent number of photos, but, from some point forward, your eyes will feel the toll of doing so. [IMG=38][IMG=39][IMG=40][IMG=41] Voice recording As we've hinted throughout the entire review, we consider the voice recording feature to be one of the most important the Sony player has to offer, since it expands the NWZ-E443's
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range of uses. [IMG=30][IMG=31] Of course, one shouldn't expect this Walkman player to offer the same level of recording quality or features as provided by the Japanese company's dedicated voice recorders, but for private use (recording a conversation in a relatively quiet environment, etc.), this feature will certainly come in handy. However, taking interviews in very loud conditions should most likely be avoided. Software-wise, the voice recording function is quite well implemented, users being able to easily choose the folder where the voice recordings will be saved, as well as the recording quality (160 kbps, 128 kbps and 96 kbps modes available). As in the case of FM recording, the audio files resulting from the recording process can be accessed via the audio player via the folder they've been stored into. [IMG=32][IMG=33] The main problem with this function is the rather strange placement of the microphone. After all, there's plenty of space to go around on the E443 (there's nothing placed on the top side, for example), so why place it on the bottom side? By doing so, users will have to hold the device kind of backwards whenever they want to record something, because, otherwise, the quality of the audio will be far from fantastic. Battery life Last, but certainly not least, we'll have to talk a bit about battery life. It seems that Sony's keen on making its Walkman players some of the most resilient (battery-wise) on the market, and that's exactly what it's achieved with this E-series model as well. So, the NWZ-E443 offers around 30 hours of non-stop audio playback or around 6 hours of video playback on one charge, which shouldn't normally take more than 2 hours, and is carried out via USB. [[BREAK=Conclusions]] The good - built-in voice recording capabilities; - built-in FM radio and FM recording; - good audio/video/photo playback capabilities; - multiple customization options; - alarm and timer features; - extensive battery life. The bad - rather cheap-feeling plastic case; - use of the WM-PORT proprietary connector instead of micro-USB; - small screen makes it difficult to watch longer videos; - placement of the microphone hole makes audio recording slightly tricky; - lack of an extension (memory card) slot; - relatively low built-in memory. Overall impressions After testing the X series and S series Walkman players from Sony, the NWZ-E443 was certainly somewhat of a surprise, but not a pleasant, nor an unpleasant one, since there are
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plenty of good and bad things about this gadget to go around. [IMG=77][IMG=78][IMG=79] As far as we're concerned, these E series devices (released in early 2009) represent Sony's answer to the economic crisis that has engulfed the whole world since the end of 2008. The product is quite decently priced (the features / price ratio is in fact a very good one), offers a couple of interesting extras (FM and voice recording, alarm and timer functions), but also sports a couple of shortcomings, such as the pretty creaky plastic case and the rather bulky volume, as well as the fairly small display (a no-no for video playback). [IMG=80][IMG=81] Of course, the Walkman device is not likely to appeal to the Apple-loving crowd out there, but we foresee quite a lot of people who want to listen to their music in very good conditions without being tied to iTunes or other such services opt for the NWZ-E443, taking into account everything the player has to offer. Sales package Sony Walkman NWZ-E443 player; Headphones - MDR-E804Y; Windows Media Player 11 - downloadable; USB cable; Docking adaptor; Quick Start guide.
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