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Tech Report – Sony Walkman X Series

Yes, the Sony Walkman is still alive! In fact, it recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. But the Walkman brand has come a long way from the original portable cassette player and the latest model, the NWZ-X1000 series – or more simply the Walkman X, completes its transformation into a state-of-the art digital device.

The X is available as a 16GB player for $299 or as a 32GB for $399. The fact that these are the same prices and capacities as the iTouch is no coincidence.  With the X Series, Sony has taken direct aim at the iTouch, basically telling buyers that, yes, there is a serious alternative to Apple’s top-selling device.

Measuring 3.8 x 2.1 x 0.4 inches, the stylish all-black X comes with a super-sharp 3-inch OLED touch screen. The user interface of the X is intuitive and easy to manipulate and the overall operability similarly gets high marks. A series of menus and sub-menus quickly take you where you need to go and the touch screen is responsive to both taps and finger drags.

The X supports MP3, WMA and AAC audio files, and AVC, MPEG4 and WMV on the video side. The player comes with built-in noise cancellation and a set of bundled ear-phones that produce a great sound with the user-adjustable equalization controls. In addition to the ear-phones, Sony includes a USB cable for transferring files from your PC; an audio cable for auxiliary output; an airplane adapter; a CD with Windows Media Player and Napster; and a coupon for 100 free songs from Sony MusicPass!

The X also supports 802.11g Wi-Fi and includes a one-tap connections to YouTube and Slacker, the free Internet radio service that allows you to create stations customized to your own musical taste.  Using the web browser to navigate other sites is a bit more cumbersome, as the on-screen  keyboard is small and can sometimes be overly sensitive. Page load times aren’t noticeably slower than the iTouch if your signal is strong.

You also get an FM tuner, which again is easy to use. The auto-scan and pre-set functions allow you to manually select stations or let the player fix on the stations with the best reception. Sony claims the battery life is 33 hours for audio playback and 9 hours for video, which is plenty for most plane rides and other long distance trips.

Like all other non-iTunes portable players, the X Series will appeal to that smaller but still sizable market that isn’t completely sold on the iPod range or is turned-off by Apple’s inflexibility when it comes to file formats and sharing. If you are considering an alternative to the iTouch, then the X series is clearly best in class...at least until Microsoft’s Zune HD hits the stores later this year!


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