There's better news to come. A worrying number of touch-screen PMPs have failed in the usability stakes, either due to unresponsive screens or poor GUI design. The X1060 effortlessly succeeds on both counts. There's no pointless prodding or repetitive swiping here; touch or tap the screen and it reacts. The GUI, meanwhile, is really an evolution of the one you'll find on existing Walkmans, and while that means it doesn't go big on multi-touch gesture recognition or eye-catching animations, it's simple to follow, easy to navigate and very, very functional. Don't get me wrong; the GUI isn't devoid of cool and useful features. The X1060 still makes appropriate use of sweeping gestures used to, say, scroll horizontally through a selection of photos or vertically through a list of artists or albums, and Sony has also implemented its own variation of CoverFlow. Just tap the album art while a track is playing and you can flit from album to album in a parade of 3D covers that neatly alters direction according to your movements. It's not exactly original, but it still looks good. I'm also a big fan of the yellow glow that surrounds buttons and options as you press them. It's good feedback, and for some reason makes me think of runes and spells in Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter - in a good way, of course.
Some of the additional functions, like the FM radio, have travelled almost directly from the higher-end E and S series Walkmans, but the introduction of W-iFi into the X1060 - doubtless to match the iPod touch feature for feature and spec for spec - has opened up a few new options. The YouTube player has its irritations - it could be easier to find and navigate content - but it works smoothly and does the job. You can also now download, play and subscribe to podcasts from within the podcast app. The big disappointments are, however, the lack of email and the quality of the Web browser.
The first is a non-issue for some people, but I've found the iPod touch a handy little email platform for when my PC is switched off or I'm doing other things, and the Sony doesn't offer the same functionality. The second might be just as unimportant to you, but when a product offers web browsing as a major selling point, that browsing experience had better be good. With the X1060 it's ghastly. The browser feels slow, it does a bad job of handling complex sites (like this one), search facilities are poor, entering text using a less than brilliantly implemented T9 system is incredibly long-winded and you actually have to type http:// in front of Web addresses before they work. It's one step up from the built-in browsers supplied on most mobile phones, but in comparison to Safari on the iPod touch, it's a disaster. Sony desperately needs to fix its browser. Now!