Sony NWZ-S738F Walkman
Seriously, do companies not understand how off-putting and confusing a model name that includes a bunch of random letters and numbers (ĎNWZ-S738Fí) is? Youíd think a company as old and experienced as Sony would grasp this, but apparently not. A small gripe perhaps, but an annoying one.
Be that as it may, in this inelegantly named model Sony has produced what is clearly a competitor to the iPod Nano. Like the Nano, the NWZ-S738F Walkman is in that curious middle ground of flash-based portable music players that are not cheap and yet donít have a lot of storage capacity or a big screen. Itís questionable whether they qualify as portable media players as opposed to merely portable music players like their bigger brothers (the Sony X Series Walkman in the case of the NWZ-S738F).
To attract customers in this space, youíd better be offering something that offers a pretty compelling compromise. So does the NWZ-S738F Walkman do that? Letís start with the argument for the affirmative. First, itís a good-looking device. Sleek and understated, with a brushed-metal face and a glossy black border, itíd definitely pair well with a Sony Vaio laptop for your next session at Starbucks, working on your novel and displaying your hipster credentials. The 2 inch screen is as bright and crisp as you could want, and it generally has a high-quality feel to it. Dimensions of 3.4 x 1.6 x 0.3 inches also make it eminently pocket-able.
Control-wise this Sony portable music player uses a five-way circular control pad and a pair of buttons. A dedicated volume control and a hold button line the right-hand edge. The interface is intuitive enough to be used blind after youíve learnt your way around.
The feature list is similarly good. Things like a built-in FM tuner, support for podcasts and a smart playlist creator perhaps wonít set the world alight, but hereís something that just might: integrated noise-canceling. Thereís a dedicated switch for this: flick it, and immediately a significant amount of background noise is eliminated. Whether it approaches the upper limit of the Ďup to the 75%í of ambient noise cancelled that Sony claims is another matter, but whatever the case may be itís a great feature for listening to your tunes in noisy environments such as trains, buses and planes.
The one sticking point with the noise cancelling feature is that it only works with the ear buds that are provided, which means that if you happen to find them uncomfortable youíre in a bind. Itís less likely that youíll want to use a different pair of headphones for sound quality reasons however, as the sound quality with the supplied ear buds is nothing short of outstanding. That could save you the $50 or so youíd normally need to spend on replacement earbuds, so theyíre a welcome inclusion.
Want more? Thereís more! The Sony NWZ-S738F allows video playback in MPEG 4 and M4V formats, and it also works with videos (whether purchased or rented) from Amazonís Video On Demand service, so if youíre happy to watch video on a two inch screen then youíll have plenty of options. And finally, its battery life is superb.
And what about the arguments against the Sony NWZ-S738F providing a compelling compromise between budget and deluxe portable music players? There arenít any, except for the price, screen size and storage capacity. At list prices of $179.99 for 8GB and $149.99 for 4GB, the Sony NWZ-S738F isnít cheap, and itís memory is not expandable either. But then, those two issues donít prevent the iPod Nano from selling well, and anyone thinking of buying a Nano should definitely consider the Sony as a very viable alternative option.