In the year 1978 the co-chairman of Sony decided that it would suit him well to be able to hear his favourite operas as he travelled on his transpacific plane journeys, and so, the Sony Walkman was born. For decades it not only dominated the portable music market but was the only option for anyone who wished to enjoy their music on the move. The Sony Walkman has changed a lot from the original cassette player, but to say it still dominates the market would be very far from the truth. The launch of the iPod and a variety of other MP3 players from leading technology providers has pushed Sony further and further from the limelight. Their only hope now seems to be to try something drastic and, as such, they have launched the Sony X series; straight into the feeding ground of the market-dominating iPod Touch. A stroke of genius or another failed attempt to add to the pile of Sony Walkman flops? To discover that we’ll need to find out exactly what the new series of Walkman offers.
The Sony Walkman X series boasts a 3 inch OLED touch screen, Wi-Fi internet access and digital noise cancelling. On first glance the new Walkman looks as attractive as you’d expect from a modern MP3 player. Its appearance is not so design focused as the iPod but comes across as having a more serious audio image. The screen size is smaller than the iPod Touch’s 3.5 inches but that shouldn’t put you off as the images are far crisper and more vibrant than its rival. The device gives the impression of being solidly built, complete with a unique glaze on the sides to please your fingertips as you hold it, and perhaps even save it dropping with over-exuberant touch screen action.
There are two models in the X series, one 16GB in size (costing £209) and one boasting an impressive 32GB (though costing a rather hefty £279), suitable for those with a larger than average music collection. The 16GB offering to the series would be able to store up to 4,000 songs or 60 hours of video. Double these figures for the 32GB model and you’re talking about an impressive amount of music.
An OLED (or Organic Light Emitting Diode) screen thrashes the closest rival out of the water in terms of picture clarity, providing an excellent platform for watching videos or studying pictures. Although the touch screen is generally responsive it is a little basic in comparison to the Touch’s, occasionally missing contact or taking longer to respond. The screen is also prone to smudging which could lead to prolonged periods of rubbing it on your jeans before showing it off. Fortunately not every action needs to utilise the touch screen. An assortment of hardware buttons on the top of the X series enables you to play, pause or skip with ease without endlessly removing the device from your pocket.
Possibly the pièce de résistance of the new Walkman is in the way that it plays music (what you’d expect from an MP3 player really!). Sony has added a new feature in their attempt to smite the giant Apple; that of in-built digital noise cancelling software. Pressing the switch on the right-hand side of the Walkman instantly provides a dulling of external noise even greater than that of the included headphones – that already do a reasonable job of cutting out the clatter. Unfortunately the noise cancelling is only compatible with the headphones that Sony does provide, so if you’re looking to use your own you won’t be able to enjoy this funky feature.
With Wi-Fi built into the X series, a web browser and a YouTube client you’ll be able to while away the hours browsing in whatever way you wish. The only barrier you may encounter is that of the somewhat frustrating keyboard. The headache of actually entering the required text might put you off struggling to search for that YouTube video that you so desperately desire to see. If you can get through the frustration you will probably be impressed with the fast-loading list of hits returned by your search.