Sony Walkman NWZ-A815
- No SonicStage, great sound, good quality headphones included, nice design
- No radio or voice recorder, no lossless formats supported
If you can handle having no voice recorder or radio and are dissatisfied with the sound quality of other portable media players, then the Sony NWZ-A815 is a great choice.
Price$ 229.00 (AUD)
A little while back we took a look at Sony's first video capable walkman, the Walkman NW-A805 and aside from our standard complaints regarding SonicStage, we were impressed. So naturally when we heard they had released a new iteration of the same product, sans the reliance on their proprietary software, we were extremely eager to take a look.
It did not disappoint. The NWZ-A815 is a 2GB media player with a slim build and excellent sound quality. As with the previous model, this unit comes with a pair of Sony's MDR-EX85LP in-ear headphones, which are quite expensive when purchased on their own and help justify the slightly higher cost of this package. Anyone who is unsatisfied with the sound produced by regular stock ear buds will find this is a great alternative.
For a more detailed writeup of the headphones you can see our review here, however in a nutshell the sound produced by this combination is rich and detailed. The headphones are a little harsh at times, but the controlled bass and excellent mid range really shine through. We also tested the unit using our high-end Shure E500 IEMs and it performed very well, but for most people we see no reason to upgrade as, unlike basically every other player on the market, the stock headphones here are excellent.
With a 2in 320x240 resolution screen, the NWZ-A815 isn't going to be a staple video watching tool, but like the new iPod nano (3rd Generation) the display is more than adequate for video clips or the occasional TV episode. We noticed a few minor artefacts but the image was generally sharp and crisp with decent colour reproduction. You can also adjust the orientation of the video, allowing you to watch in portrait or landscape mode.
Videos can be in AVC-BL or the more popular MPEG-4 format although no software is provided to convert it. Meanwhile for music, the device supports MP3, DRM encrypted WMA as well as AAC, but sadly no lossless option is included.
Of course the big news on this front isn't what formats are available, but how you transfer them to the device. For years most of our Sony MP3 player reviews have gone a little something like this: "This is a great device that is hampered by a reliance on Sony's SonicStage software". Well finally that is no longer the case. Much like any other MP3 player, the NWZ-A815 shows up as a removable storage device in Windows Explorer, allowing you to drag and drop music and video across easily.
Most of the features you'd expect are here, including playlist support, equaliser presets along with a custom option, and shuffle and loop modes. The zany 'time machine shuffle' mode also returns, which picks a random year and then plays a song from that time. A picture viewer is included, but with the screen being smaller than that of many digital cameras, we don't see it being too useful. Two things that we did miss were a radio receiver and voice recorder; both relatively standard on modern MP3 players.
The unit's design is very cool. Our model came with a matte white colour scheme and the slim build looks and feels very sturdy. It slips easily into your pocket and looks fantastic. The controls are clearly and simply laid out and when coupled with the extremely intuitive interface, make for a great navigation experience.
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