Sony has launched a new player that allows users to drag and drop MP3 files directly onto the player's hard drive without the need to use its Connect music software.

Even more amazing, the drive doesn't support the ATRAC 3 file format even though Sony normally insists that all its portable MP3 players use the music storage format.

So what's the catch? You will need a car to benefit, as the new MP3 player is actually a part of a new car stereo system the company is launching.

Called the Giga Panel, the car stereo will have 1Gb of flash memory on board. Users will be able to connect the removable face-plate directly to their PC (and presumably an Apple Mac) via a USB2.0 connection to transfer around 500 songs to and from the device.

The car stereo will also offer support for other MP3 players via an aux line-in on the front of the unit and come with a technology delevoped by Sony called BBE MP to improve sound quality from compressed MP3 files or the radio.

It will also include a CD player so you can listen to ATRAC 3 songs you've downloaded from the Sony Connect store and then burnt onto a CD.

When we questioned Stephen Jean, Group Product Marketing Manager at Sony, about why the car stereo department had taken a monumental shift away from what Sony's Personal Audio department had been telling us for the last 3 years about its necessity to have MP3 players that could only be connected via the Connect service his reply was:

“He just wanted to make it easier for users to transfer files to the device”.

We agree Mr Jean, but can you tell the chaps at Personal Audio to follow suit?

The new unit will be able in February next year and cost £329.