(Credit: CNET Asia)
MP3 players have come in various shapes and sizes, but the "USB stick" form factor is arguably one of the oldest and most common with tons of offerings such as Apple's first-generation iPod shuffle. Sony's latest player still features an ample 2GB or 4GB of internal memory, but what else has the company thrown in to keep a dated design interesting?
Design and features
At a glance, it resembles the tons of stick players in the market today. The device is quite small — measuring 90.9x23.3x15.2mm. However, instead of the usual four-directional navigation controls, Sony has replaced it with a jog dial with a big play/pause button in the middle of it. On the right of the dial, you'll find a standard USB plug under a removable cap that's colour-coded to the body. In Australia, it's available in blue, pink, red or black. A three-line monochrome LCD display surrounded by a glossy black surface completes the player's aesthetics.
The screen may be small, but it was readable in most conditions. This Walkman's interface is rather traditional and straightforward, with the home menu displaying four icons for Voice, Music Library, FM radio and Settings. Sadly, there's nothing new to the interface, although it still offers browsing by folder level.
(Credit: CNET Asia)
As for buttons, there are two to control the volume buttons, one for record control and one for bass/playback mode selection. On the front of the player are two buttons, one for activating the Zappin feature and the other to navigate back/home in the menus. Rotating the jog dial clockwise forwards the tracks, while an anti-clockwise motion selects tracks backward. The dial also controls the menu navigation where the play/pause button doubles as an Enter button.
Connect the player to the PC and it's immediately recognised as a standard USB memory drive. Music files can be put onto the player via standard drag-and-drop in Windows Explorer or though Windows Media Player. The B153 supports only MP3 and playback. Although there's a menu selection for playlists, there is no way of creating them on the go. They have to be created in Windows Media Player and then transferred to the player.
(Credit: CNET Asia)
Performance and conclusion
Charging the player took slightly over an hour via USB. Fortunately, it comes with the Quick Charge feature — plug it in for three minutes for enough charge to get approximately 90 minutes of playback. Another feature unique to Sony is Zappin, which lets you browse through your music library by playing a short sample of each song — a nifty feature for the screenless W-series Walkman. We barely found ourselves using it as the B153 has, you guessed it, a screen.
Playback quality for the Walkman was good, if not with a little lack of bass at the default settings. The listening experience with the bundled headphones was unimpressive as they lacked any punch, but hitting the bass button boosted the bass levels up quite nicely. Be warned though. If you're a user of in-ear headphones, the bass boost can be overwhelming for your buds and ears. Activating the bass feature also activated a small ring of red LED lights around the jog dial and these three tiny LEDs would light up according to the beat of the music.
We couldn't help but think that Sony's taken a little jab at Microsoft with the design. But while we were intrigued by the blinking LEDs, we experienced a significant drop in battery life. Under normal listening habits, we managed about 17 hours of aural enjoyment, but turning on the visual candy nearly halved the playback time to slightly under nine hours, which is close to being unacceptable for any MP3 player.
At the end of the day, we were satisfied with the performance of this little player. The jog dial took some getting used to compared with the traditional D-pad. That said, it is a worthy consideration if you're looking for a simple player. What we couldn't really put our finger on were the added features such as Zappin and LED illumination — they felt like excess baggage on an otherwise plain player.
Via CNET Asia