As much as i hate a certain other company dominating the portable music/video player market, it makes me question whether Sony are doing everything they can to make their products stand out. As a previous owner of a 2nd gen Nano, I thought this sweet looking device shouldn't fail to top the popular market standard. I've had it for more than 3 months now and have been meaning to write a review, so here it is.
In general, this little thing does most of what you expect it to, so it's kind of pointless talking about how good it is, but the things that stood out the most were:
Video playback - the screen really is amazing. When you max out the brightness, the colours are deep and rich, no flickering or out-of-sync frames, simply brilliant. The resolution could be slightly higher for how large the screen is, but with what you get, I say it's barely worth mentioning.
The device itself seems quite picky on the kind of video it supports, but the Walkman app gives you the option to convert it on the spot, which is great.
Pressing the up/down arrow on playback screen takes you to the album coverflow, which if you organise well looks quite spectacular.
Battery is very efficient. Having lower screen brightness with just music should last you at least 2 whole days. Even playing video on max brightness doesn't drain it anywhere near as quickly as I expected.
However minor, ranging from passive pointlessness to slight annoyance, there certainly are a few of them. Two main reasons I couldn't give this product five stars and love it forever are as follows:
It's not a very loud player. With most music, the maximum volume rarely seems to be the norm, and the Walkman refuses to push it that extra bit. So if you absolutely can't do without that extreme blast wave in your brain, you might want to look the other way.
No gapless playback. Personally I cannot call my music listening experience perfect with tiny pauses between each track. If Apple can do it, why can't Sony? This may be of no issue to someone else for different reasons, so this point is fairly subjective.
Then, less important to me but worth mentioning, there's the pointless "sound enhancement" options and the useless EQ. Both Clear Stereo and DSEE don't seem to do a thing at all. I believe they're meant to improve the sound of the lower bitrate tracks, so unless your tracks are 192kbps or less, I doubt turning these options on will be of any use. The VPT environment effects, Language Learning mode and Speed Control - does anyone even use these?
The equaliser, which i currently have at +1 on everything, does a really good job at ruining your music, if, say, you wanted a higher bass boost. What it actually will do is normalise all other eq bands while the track is playing in a very terrible way - as soon as the lower freqs in a song kick in, all the higher ones will be muffled. Clear Bass my ar*e.
Noise Cancelling - don't find it very useful as my music is generally loud so I don't worry about background noise much. I noticed though that it's good for cancelling out 'car driving past' noise, not so much for 'people talking' noise. Use on public/personal transport may be tricky too; if the ride is bumpy, surely enough, you'll get some dramatic audio stutter, which if you ask me, almost beats the whole point of Noise Cancelling.
The interface can take a bit of time to get used to, sometimes feels like you need to press too many keys to get from a menu to the playback screen.
With all that's been said, it's a really nice player, but I think Sony has to step it up to really be the best. If not Sony, someone else definitely will. I guess we'll just have to wait for to see what happens