Pocket-lint.co.uk was invited by Sony down to Columbia House in Soho, London to get a first look at the new Portable Media Player from Sony launched in Japan this week. The player won’t be available in the UK until next summer however the model was a full retail version as sold in Japan.

Our first impressions were that the unit was very shiny indeed. A large 3.5in crisp colour screen dominates the front of the device with controls placed to the side. The rest of the player is either a shiny black or bushed metal.

Judging on the MPEG4 footage that we viewed on the player - Terminator 3, Bad Boys 2 and a couple of other movies trailers - quality was as excellent as you’d expect from Sony with the screen capable of keeping up with the fast movie images and CGI footage on the clips we watched. Likewise viewing still digital images again were very crisp and colours well balanced. Images in BMP, GIF, TIFF, PNG, and PGPF formats will be converted to JPEG by the software on the fly.

The buttons, which are actually indented into the device have been given plenty of room and were very responsive even though there was nothing to depress. The topside of the unit offers a sliding power switch, which doubles up as the hold button and two individual volume buttons again all well built and again all very shiny.

Tucked under a rubberised flap on the side of the player can be found a video out, USB socket and DV power socket. Sony say that you will be able to connect a digital camera direct to the player and download images direct to units hard drive although we were unable to see this in action. If so it will become a very useful tool for the digital camera users out and about needing to download their pictures.

The player isn’t just about images though and it also offers support for music files. According to Sony this player will be able to play native MP3 files rather than insisting that you’ll have transfer everything to Sony’s proprietary format ATRAC. Music playback either way was good through the unit’s two available headphone sockets although unlike some of the media players coming on the market there is no external speaker.

Battery life is quoted as 4 hours for MPEG 2 playback, 6 hours for MPEG 4 playback, and 8 hours for MP3 playback, and a nice touch was that the screen automatically turned off when an MP3 track was played.

First Impressions

The clear crisp screen, the easy to use menu and the ability to transfer your images onto the player are all great features. A nice touch is the addition of thumbnails for picture and movie files within the menu system to give that visual trigger sometimes needed.

However, the player isn't without its drawbacks. Mainly, only 20Gb of storage space, which if you plan to use as your music, film and image bank may not be enough. Sony seem to think this will be enough to get you started, but with Apple poised to announce a 60Gb music player in the near future you can't help but think that by the time this unit makes it to English shores the 20Gb will seem a bit on the lacklustre side. Hopefully in the year it takes to get to the UK, Sony will see where the market's headed and keep this otherwise highly impressive player competitive.