Describing an MP3 player as "wearable" isn't something of an increasing trend. Sure, the iPod shuffle leads the charge of clip-sporting players and there are plenty you can hang around your neck or strap to your arm, but the W202 from Sony does away with all the wire, player and mess.
We've see neckband headphones in various forms too, from the Bluetooth Motorola S9 to the wired Sennheiser PMX70, for example. The W202 take this idea, but cram the brains into the same outfit so you don't need an additional player.
The neckband in this case is a flexible wire, whilst most of the friction need to keep the W202 stable comes from a good fit from the ear buds and the light touch of the band on the sides of your head. You get a choice of three different ear rubbers in the box so it should cater for most ear sizes.
The official method of wearing is with the band coming out of the top of the ear units and over your ears, however, it does work equally well the other way up, with the band going under your ears. This shifts the controls from left- to right-hand side which some might prefer.
It is actually superbly comfortable. You might raise an eyebrow at first, but it works really well and is light enough to wear and forget. It also doesn't bounce around when you are running because it is so light and still gives you a full range of movement in your head, something that can blight neck band headphones.
The controls are all on the right-hand ear blob, with a multifunction jog dial and a volume controller. The inside edge sees a shuffle slider too, which you can engage for overall randomness. The location of the shuffle slider means it will be near impossible to move whilst wearing the device, but this is little matter.
The jog dial then handles pretty much everything you'll want to do. A simple click acts as play/pause, a sweep forward skips forward, a sweep back goes back. It's all pretty simple, but Sony have decided to mix things up a with ZAPPIN.
ZAPPIN is a clever little piece of software that activates with a long press of the jog dial. It basically acts as a way of quickly finding tunes in your collection, given that you don't have a screen to navigate. Once activated, it will play you a short snippet of the song, if you want to listen to that, then a quick press resumes play.
You can change the length of clip between between 4 and 15 seconds, depending on your preference. It's a nice little addition and provides something above just skipping tracks in shuffle until you hit what you want. If you turn off the player in ZAPPIN mode, it will startup in ZAPPIN mode too, so go straight into track skipping, something we found was really useful once we got used to it.
Given that you have no options regarding playback, it has to sound good too: and it sound good it does. Music is belted out at appreciable volumes, so if you are in a busy gym, you'll have no problem drowning out the background rumble of treadmills and Default Radio.
The sound is a little on the bassy side, something that we like and fits well with the sort of pumping music you'd take to the gym, but might not suit so well if you are going to be listening to audio books whilst out walking. But there is a good deal of clarity to music and we found that all types of music sounded pretty good. A good fit from the ear bud also means that it cuts out background noise too.
Sony, not being content to just give you a neat Walkman player have another trick in store. To store the W202, and switch it off, you marry the two halves of the player together, where a magnet pulls them together. Bundled in the box you'll also find a neat stand where you can park your W202 headphones to keep them safe and charge them.
The connection is a standard Mini-USB, so you can use a regular cable to charge them whilst on the move and Sony have even thrown in an additional cover to keep the two halves together in your bag. Sony boast that a 3 minute charge will give you 90 minutes of listening and a full charge will give you about 12 hours listening.
Getting content onto the player is either via Windows Media Player, or the bundled Content Transfer, or simple drag and drop. With a 2GB capacity, it isn't the largest player, but considering the size, it should be ample and the price is reasonable too.
Overall there is little to fault here. The sound quality will satisfy your needs when you throw on Eye of the Tiger down the gym, while a thoughtful range of extras in the box make this a compelling purchase.
Ok, so the controls could have been larger, perhaps a touch button on the face of the device, but we didn't find any problems controlling our music. You'd also have to have forgone the slick design.
It's great when something surprises: the W202 looks like it is destined for failure, but in reality, it has been considerately designed and implemented, and the end result gives you a highly convenient MP3 player, perfect for when you don't want to be encumbered by wires, straps or clips.
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