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Over the years, I've regularly been impressed by Sony's MP3 players. The firm seems to place much more emphasis on good sound quality than many other manufacturers. However, it has always blindly insisted on forcing its frankly useless SonicStage software upon users of its music players, and this has reduced some potentially great products to the merely good. Of the many capabilities the giant corporation can boast, software development is clearly not its strongest suit.
Finally, the bigwigs at Sony have recognised this and, in a bid to keep step with the competition, they've produced the 2GB NWD-B105. It's the firm's first ever MP3 player to be liberated from the crippling yoke that is SonicStage, and it's all the better for it.
Of course the removal of SonicStage from the mix merely levels the playing field. In an attempt to give the NWD-B105 the edge over the competition, it has an ace up its sleeve. While you can simply drag music tracks to it as if it were a USB thumb drive, this player also has a lightweight piece of software on it that can be run automatically when you plug it in. Called Auto Transfer, this scans commonly used music folders for compatible tracks (the NWD-B105 supports WMA and MP3 files) and transfers a selection to the device.
It's simple, but beautifully so and means you can 'shuffle' your music without having to resort to a more heavyweight application such as Media Player or iTunes. Why Sony couldn't have done this years earlier is beyond me?
Apart from its new-found freedom from SonicStage, the NWD-B105 is a pretty straightforward player. It's very similar, in fact, to the firm's budget NW-E015 I reviewed barely a month ago. Like that player, it looks more like a tube of lipstick than a sophisticated piece of technology. It has the same, small, three-line colour TFT and comes in a similar assortment of colours. But there are improvements.