Sony is the company that created and once dominated the market for music on the move. However, it has had something of a torrid time recently in that regard having seen the word iPod take over from Walkman as the de-facto brand for portable audio in the 21st century. But now it wants its market back.
It's problem stem from the fact that it simply hasn’t had the products that people wanted. Since Sony invented the Walkman the company has changed. It is no longer just a vendor of consumer electronics, but also a multi-faceted producer of content through its Sony Pictures and Sony Music divisions. But by trying to create a synergy between its products and its content, Sony missed the bigger picture. For years it has been obsessed by its own proprietary ATRAC codec and DRM while the rest of digital world was going with open formats such as MP3. Thus quicker, smarter and more savvy companies such as Apple have been able to sweep in and take large chunks of its mindshare and market share.
But like a sleeping giant awakening there are signs that Sony is rousing. Last year it finally got round to adding native MP3 support for its flash based MP3 players and also released a hard disk based player – only weeks after denying to us that it would ever do such a thing. This player was the NW-HD1 which Riyad reviewed here. This product had only a short shelf life, with this new player, the NW-HD3, following on only a couple of months later. This major difference was that the HD3 added native support for MP3 from the get-go without having to recode the tracks to its native ATRAC format. (A firmware update for the HD1 is also available). Other than that, the changes to the HD3 are subtle. The screen has been moved a little and it’s now available in four colours, silver, blue, red and a rather nifty looking black. Oh, and Sony has decided follow Apple and remove the dock from the box. This is a shame as it was quite cool looking and wrapped around the chassis nicely. It’s also been introduced at a slightly lower price than the HD1 and most online retailers have it on sale for about £220.
Fundamentally though, it’s still the same 20GB capacity player, and unfortunately you still need to use Sony’s infamous SonicStage software to get your music onto it. The unit does appear in Windows as a drive letter and you can drag and drop anything you want onto it but you can only play audio on HD3 if it’s been transferred by SonicStage. To hook up the player to a PC though you need to attach a USB adaptor. This means you have to have this with you if you want to use it as an external drive so there could be instances where you don’t have it with you, which could prove frustrating.