At last we have our hands on it: Sony's mighty flagship touch-screen Walkman, the one that was going to push Apple's iPod touch around in the playground then leave assorted other players crying for their mummies. It's fair to say that few players of recent years have been so anticipated - and it's also fair to say that few players so anticipated have been met with such a mixed response. Whatever you might have read elsewhere, the X1060 is an excellent player, and one that only a cloth-eared simpleton could describe as an all-out disappointment. The bad news is that it's not excellent in the way some of you might have hoped. While it trumps Apple's effort in several key areas, it's not quite the market-leading, all-singing, all-dancing PMP that many of us hoped it would turn out to be.
Personally speaking, my doubts started creeping in as soon as I pulled the X1060 out of the box. From the front it's a very cool, compact unit dominated by a gorgeous 3in OLED screen. Face on, it's about a centimetre smaller than the iPod touch in both directions, and at 10.5mm it's around the same thickness. Bar the ridged metallic semi-circular Home button at the bottom, the front is a single sheet of glass and the styling is typical Sony: understated, elegant and smart. Unfortunately, someone on the design team decided that this was all a bit dull, and so the sides have been treated with some weird, mottled grey crocodile skin/granite effect, while the back seems to have borrowed its finish from a B&Q kitchen worktop. It's not a disaster, but it leaves a slightly odd first impression.
Still, there's no doubt that the company that practically invented personal audio knows how to build very usable, robust mobile hardware. While I'd probably want a case to protect the screen - and the same goes for any touch-screen PMP - the X1060 feels ridiculously solid. The front and back surfaces are prone to collecting fingerprints, but - again - you can say the same about the Cowon S9, Samsung YP-P2 or iPod touch. The headphone socket can be found sensibly placed on the top edge, along with some useful and accessible playback buttons. The right side, meanwhile, holds a volume rocker and a switch for the X1060's built-in noise reduction facility (more on this later). On the back, you'll also find a useful hold switch, which is very handy if you want to shove your Walkman in your trouser pocket but don't want to find you're inadvertently pausing or changing tracks as you move about.
Now, some people might question the point of physical controls on a touch-screen player, but to my mind they're very, very handy when you need to pause or change volume in a hurry without getting the device out of a pocket. In some boroughs of London, that's practically a survival skill. I can't say I'm quite so chuffed with the proprietary USB connector, but that now seems to be standard issue for a player of this class.