Sony Walkman NW-HD5

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Sony Walkman NW-HD5
  • Sony Walkman NW-HD5
  • Sony Walkman NW-HD5
  • Sony Walkman NW-HD5

Pros

  • Looks good, easy to use, good PC software, very light

Cons

  • No voice recording or FM tuner, must use SonicStage for file transfer

Bottom Line

A stylish alternative to the iPod, the Sony Walkman doesn't break new ground, but it's very light and works well.

Would you buy this?

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A little more squat than the iPod, with retro square control buttons, the NWHD5 a good job of stealing the cool from the iPod. The Walkman is solid, light (115g), smaller than an iPod and comes in multiple colours (silver, black and red).

We're not too sure about the hinged flap that covers the USB and power cord, however--it feels like it could snap off without too much encouragement.

The LCD maintains the funk, with white text on black backgrounds. It has a very bright backlight which, much like a mobile phone, dims after a few seconds in order to save battery life. Sony claims the Walkman can operate for up to 40 hours without recharging, if you limit yourself to 48Kbps ATRAC3plus. It can be recharged by USB 2.0 cable or from mains.

Anybody who has used a portable MP3 player before will be familiar with the interface. Sony has done nothing wrong here--you can quickly navigate to the songs you want to hear via artist, album or genre or track name. You can also create playlists. Sony has applied the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principle to the interface--with just nine buttons on the front of the Walkman you can get a lot done, and quickly.

The Walkman supports MP3, WMA, WAV and Sony's own ATRAC3plus format (the preferred format for the player). Irrespective of the codec used, the Walkman delivered high-volume, high-quality music with the supplied headphones. Even MP3s encoded at 128Kbps came through well, without noticeable noise.

The software supplied with the Sony, SonicStage 3.1, is an outstanding music manager, player, ripper, burner and converter as well as a very handy tool for transferring the files to the Walkman. It can even be used to play music directly from the hard disk in the Walkman, as long as the music is in ATRAC3plus format (it cannot, unfortunately, stream MP3s from the Walkman).

Technically, the Sony presents itself as a USB 2.0 hard disk storage device to the operating system, so you can store and transport non-music files on the device, but the file-system structure is so obscure it makes this process risky. The wacky file system also ensures that you have to use SonicStage for transferring music to the player.

Sony gets just about everything right with the Walkman. It doesn't have some of the features with which other MP3 players try to differentiate themselves (such as voice recording), but it's stylin', small and simple. It's not an iPod killer, certainly, but it's a very nice alternative.

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