Sony NWZ-A845 Walkman
Sony's current range of Walkman MP3 players caters for everyone, from true music buffs to kids and karaoke fans (you can read our review of the Karaoke-equipped NWZ-E453 here). The NWZ-A845 is Sony's flagship model and is also the Japanese technology giant's thinnest Walkman yet. Equipped with a large 2.8-inch OLED screen, the gadget has 16GB of memory along with EX noise cancelling headphones and a full S-Master digital amplifier.
Measuring a razor-thin 7.2mm in depth, the device has a truly svelte profile and weighing in at just 62g, it offers genuine portability and can easily be stuffed into a pocket. Sporting a glass-fronted fascia, black surround and silver detailing around the main controls, the player's slinky finish exudes class and leaves you in no doubt that this is a premium product. While the Back and Option buttons have a shiny silver finish, the surrounding multi-direction control and play/pause button feature a ribbed metallic texture making navigation that bit easier. On the side of the player you'll find the well-placed volume up and down buttons, along with a Hold switch to lock the buttons so that your music doesn't skip around while the device is in your bag or pocket.
On the bottom of the device, you'll find a socket for hooking it up to your computer's USB port with the supplied cable. One of our only gripes with the player is that you have to charge it through your computer as there is no separate power adaptor. The headphone socket is also located on the bottom, which we think is a simple, but effective, stroke of design genius. As it's on the bottom, it means that you don't have to contend with the headphone wires dangling in front of the screen when you're trying to seach for a track to listen to.
One of the NWZ-A845's big selling points is its large 2.8-inch OLED screen, boasting a 400 x 240-pixel resolution. All of the on-screen menus appear clear and bright, making navigation a cinch. The icon-based home screen enables you to choose between the main functions including Music, Video and Photos. The menu set-up is easy to understand and very intuitive to use so you'll be whizzing through the settings in no time.
When it comes to music playback, the player supports MP3, WMA, and AAC files which can be transferred in one of three ways. You can either move them across from a CD using Windows Media Player 11, you can use the bundled Content Transfer software to load tracks straight from iTunes or you can simply drag and drop files using Windows Explorer.
Play modes include Shuffle and Repeat, while the sound equaliser enables you to choose from various modes including Pop, Jazz and Heavy or you can set your own. You can also switch between a range of pseudo-surround sound modes such as Studio, Live and Arena. The player includes a Karaoke mode that automatically dulls down the volume of the vocals so that you can sing along. You can also use Speed Control to increase or decrease the speed of the playback, sometimes with unintentionally hilarious results.
The sound performance is excellent, largely thanks to a variety of audio technologies present such as Clear Stereo, Clear Bass and DSEE sound enhancement. There's also a digital noise cancelling mode that's designed to cancel out the drone of your daily commute. It can be turned on and off, straight through the relevant icon on the home screen. Adding to the the player's audio credentials are the supplied EX noise cancelling headphones which are considerably better than those that you usually find bundled with MP3 players. With an earbud-style design, the headphones are supplied with silicone buds so that their size can be altered to find the best fit.
When it comes to watching video on the OLED screen, the claimed 10000:1 contrast ratio certainly comes in handy, as does the wide viewing angle. The player supports MPEG4, AVC (H.264/AVC) and WMV 9 files.
We tried out some football clips which really showed off the vibrant colours of the pitch and the players' strips, and it coped admirably with the fast-paced action, no doubt thanks to the claimed response time of 0.1ms. You can even watch video content on your TV using the optional WMC-NWV10 output cable (although this doesn't support photos or podcasts).
The NWZ-A845 also boasts an impressive battery life with claimed playback time of 30 hours for music and 6 hours for video which is a whole lot better than many of its similarly priced rivals. Other features include an FM tuner with 30 station presets.
Although Sony's flagship music player doesn't have all the bells and whistles that you mind find on an Apple product, what it does have is a mighty fine audio performance and as that's the main reason you'll be looking at buying it: the NWZ-A845 comes highly recommended.