Last week Apple launched its new line-up of music players in the form of a revamped iTouch, iPod Nano and Shuffle. The iTouch is basically a mini-computer in terms of storage, functions and applications, and few Mp3 players have come close to competing with it. However, the smaller and less competent Nano has many contenders. One of them is the new A Series Sony Walkman Mp3 player, the NWZ-A845, which comes with a 16GB capacity.

Look and feel

Although some might argue that the NWZ-A845 has an unoriginal design, we loved how it felt in our hands. At just 7.2mm thick, it is the thinnest Walkman yet, almost like a small bar of Swiss chocolate. Despite looking fragile, it felt strong and sturdy in our hands. Encased in a black chassis, the NWZ-A845 comes with a 2.8-inch OLED screen.

Below that, in a concentric circle design are most of the player's controls. There is a play/pause button in the centre, surrounded by controls to move up, down, left and right. On the top left is a back/home button and the top right has an option/power off button.

Volume controls are conveniently located on the top right hand side of the player, making it intuitive to use when you're listening on the go. There is a ‘Hold' button below that which locks the player. The 3.5mm headphone jack is located at the bottom. What we really didn't appreciate was the fact that Sony decided to go with a custom port for charging the player and transferring files instead of a standard mini-USB. This means you always have to carry the cable with you, just like is the case with the iPod.

That said, the screen more than makes up for most negatives the player has. At 2.8-inches, it's wide enough to comfortably watch video (for a mini-player) when you're travelling. 720x480 resolution video reproduction means higher colour saturation, greater contrast and clarity and rapid response time. Videos were crisp and clear and played without any visible stutter, and colour reproduction was close to perfect.

The player comes with a bunch of pre-loaded wallpapers, and you can also choose to make any of your photos the default wallpaper if you like. The NWZ-A845 Walkman's OLED technology means that the screen can be viewed at all angles, perfect if you want to watch a video with a couple of friends.

The only downside of the screen was that it didn't fare too well in sunlight, which puts it on par with most other music players in the market.

Media

The NWZ-A845 offers three main features – video, audio and photos. Unlike Apple's players which require syncing with one iTunes library at a time, the NWZ-A845 functions on the basis of simple drag and drop.

One good feature was the fact that when we synced the player with one Windows Media Player library and added files from another, the previous files did not vanish, which is usually the problem with syncing.

We had a problem with video though. The video formats which the player supports are MPEG-4, AVC and WMV. We tried transferring some Avi files on to it, but the files did not show up on the player itself, although they were visible on the Windows Media Player list. Sony should look at offering embedded conversion software for videos so that more formats can be accepted.

Sound

After the screen, the next best feature of the player was the sound. Tonal quality was well balanced, and songs where good levels of bass and treble were required were reproduced brilliantly.

You can adjust the equaliser settings between heavy, pop, jazz, unique, and two custom settings, depending on the album you're listening to. You can also change the VPT (Surround) setting to none, studio, live, club, arena, matrix and karaoke.

Noise cancellation can be adjusted between one of three modes – bus/train, airplane and office.

The player comes bundled with digital noise cancelling earphones, which Sony sells separately too at about half the price of the player!

The headphones were the in-ear kind, and came with three sizes of earbuds. They were a tad uncomfortable at times and tended to pop out occasionally. However, considering the kind of bundled earphones we normally get with music players, we were really pleased with what Sony offers.

We were also glad that Sony decided to include an FM tuner in the player. This is a feature some Mp3 players tend to ignore. The tuner was very receptive, picking up some radio stations that are known to have bad signal strength.

It was quite easy to tune and select presets as well.

User interface

The player was intuitive to use. The controls were simple and well spaced, and the player showed no lag when it came to switching screens and menus.

We weren't too impressed with the music list layout though. Music appears in alphabetical order, in vertical lists, so there's a lot of shifting when using the up/down and left/right buttons.

The menu screen was neat and well spaced, and had large icons for most functions. Depending on what feature of the player you're using, you can use the option button to bring up a menu of selective functions. If you're looking for a more detailed settings page, simply go to the settings icon on the main menu page and choose from the list.

Sony claims that the NWZ-A845 Walkman's battery can last 31 hours of audio playback. However, the unit we got for review lasted only around 6-7 hours. There is a battery care setting which sets the charge amount to 90 per cent when fully charged, and this is supposed to lengthen the life of the battery. However, we used the player without this feature. Even then, we really thought Sony could have improved the battery life considering that the player is a 16GB unit.

Storage is an issue as well, with the actual free space being 14.1GB, but it is comparable to what the other mini-players offer.

Verdict

We thought that the NWZ-A845 provides good competition for the iPod Nano and other mini Mp3 players in the market. While it scores in terms of sound and video, for the price you pay, a touch screen would have been a nice addition. We would recommend it if you're a stickler for good acoustics.

Rs 11,990

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