In terms of look and feel this Walkman is a winner. At just 7.7mm thick the A-Series' metal body is both a visual and tactile delight. If you're not a fan of the Walkman's sexy black finish then you're out of luck, as it's the only colour available.
Unlike Sony's other OLED Walkman, the touchscreen X-Series, the A-Series features the company's now traditional Mickey Mouse button layout. Quite how they haven't been sued by the Walt Disney Company is still beyond us; nonetheless, the metal buttons are — you can take a swig now — a tactile delight.
The menu system looks good and is simple to navigate. Our only major criticism is that it sometimes takes a few clicks to stop and start music as the centre button functions as both an Enter key, as well as a play/pause button.
Sitting behind a glass screen is a 2.8-inch, 400x240 OLED display that retains its colour, brightness and clarity from almost any viewing angle. Shame then that there's a slight bluish tinge to its whites.
Regardless, videos and photos look fantastic on the A-Series. The only picture format supported is JPEG and annoyingly you can't zoom into images. The only way to play DivX and XviD clips is via conversion, as the Walkman's compatible video formats are AVC/H.264, MPEG4, WMV and AAC-LC.
As with the rest of the Walkman line-up, music, videos and pictures are transferred via simple drag-and-drop. While this cuts out a bloated middle man — we're thinking of you iTunes — it does entail a few negative side effects.
For example, there's no gapless playback, the device can't be used for listening to music, watching video and browsing photos when it's plugged into a computer, and the Walkman forgets the last song played before it was plugged in.
With no supplied AC adapter, hitching it to a computer is the only way to charge the A-Series. A full charge requires about three hours and provided us sufficient charge for a week's worth of music playback — according to Sony, the A-Series is good for 29 hours of music playback, eight hours of video or 14 hours of FM radio.
Sound quality is excellent for an MP3 player, with excellent reproduction throughout the audible range. In its default state the A-Series emphasises mid-range and high tones, but bass lovers can tweak the equaliser settings to their liking or choose from a selection of presets.
Some users won't like the bundled EX ear buds that need to be inserted deep into the ear, but without them or another set of compatible headphones you won't be able to make use of the A-Series' built-in digital noise-cancellation smarts.
There are three cancellation profiles available — bus, plane and office. The first two work well, muting the familiar engine rumble and replacing it with an eerie electronic silence. In the office, whilst the most of the hubbub is drowned out, the noise-cancellation circuitry can't eliminate the clickety-clack of keyboards or the squeaking of chairs, which are very noticeable in the otherworldly silence.
Up until this point the A-Series is in the running for an 8.5-plus score and an Editors' Choice award, but as you can probably guess from this section's heading there's one (very) sore point: price. At AU$399 for the 16GB (NWZ-A845) and AU$499 for the 32GB (NWZ-A846), the A-Series' pricing is, to put it mildly, on the high side as the 16GB iPod Nano retails for just AU$249.
Sony Australia could argue the point by highlighting the A-Series' superior fidelity and heftier feature list — like the OLED screen, noise cancellation, high quality ear buds and so forth. But what really undermines any potential argument is this Walkman's pricing in the UK, where it's just a mere £11 more expensive than the equivalent iPod Nano.
|Walkman NWZ-A845||iPod Nano 16GB||Price difference|
Unless you desperately crave the iPod Nano's camera or have a tonne of DRMed music from iTunes, the Walkman A-Series beats the pants off Apple's metallic MP3 player. The Walkman's unfortunate Australian pricing precludes us from recommending it though, unless you can bargain it down significantly or find a way of obtaining one from overseas.