|Sony B152 USB Walkmanģ MP3 player|
Source: Sony Centre
This is the latest in a long line of Sony MP3 players for me and Iíve always considered them to be the sensible choice, despite the undeniable (and tiresome) success of the iPod. With that in mind they were going to have to have done something pretty drastic with this model for me to dislike it, but not only have they delivered a solid little Walkman, theyíve gone and introduced a couple of new features that I really, really like.
Out of the box it looks very neatóas youíd expectóand all the instructions are fairly straightforward, not that you really need them. As you can see from the pic it comes in four colours (black, red, blue and pink and a huge plus for me is that the device connects directly to a USB port and file transfer is simply drag and drop, no cables, no awkward proprietary software. The supplied earphones are great as well, very comfortable, and block out ambient noise pretty effectively. The claimed battery life and quick charge figures both make pleasant reading but Iíd be lying if I said Iíd tested these even vaguely, what I can say is that I havenít made a conscious decision to charge it since it arrived. Itís had the odd minute or two plugged into the PC while Iím putting more tracks on and thatís been sufficient for it to keep my ears busy for over three weeks of regular use.
There are four equaliser settings with a fifth slot for custom setup, and the sound quality is actually very good by default, but honestly once Iíd turned on the Bass Boost feature I wondered how I ever lived without it. You can drop the volume way down and the range you get is still remarkable, it blows away anything Iíve seen or heard before from comparable products and I havenít turned it off since.
The display is good too, a 3-line LCD covers track and artists details adequately and the backlight is excellent, although during playback there are some seemingly random and incredibly hyperactive LEDs that flicker around until the novelty wears and you turn them off. It features a voice recorder as well and it works great, itís just one of those additions that Iíve never really understood the merit of - personally Iíd much rather have seen an FM radio.
Now, when I read about ZAPPINô I couldnít help but shudder a bit, the name alone instantly set off my Ďgimmick alarmí but as it turns out Iím actually becoming a bit of a fan of the feature. You hit a button temptingly labelled ďZapĒ and the player scrolls through the album (artist/genre/etc) youíve chosen and plays you a few seconds of each song until you hear the one youíre after, at which point you can press it again to play the whole track from the start. For an album you want to hear beginning to end itís obviously useless, but for example I found it came in handy when hunting down particular tracks before I had committed their titles to memory.
Itís not all good though, in fact the large ďjogĒ dial on the front for navigating the menus and skipping tracks is one of the clumsiest things Iíve ever seen on a piece of Sony hardware. Youíre expected to nudge it right to skip forward through tracks and yet counter-intuitively nudge it left to scroll down through menus; it makes no sense whatsoever and goes some small way to spoiling what would otherwise be a really excellent user experience. Whether or not this is a just personal gripe or a genuine interface cock-up remains to be seen, but admittedly itís the only minor issue that I managed to find with what is otherwise an outstanding product.
- Great sound quality on the bus, train, in the park or on the street;
- No leads to lose, just plug into your PC's USB port;
- One touch for bass boost or ZAPPINô song search;
- 3 minute charge gives 90 minutes of playback;
- Unintuitive dial controls