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Sony Walkman NWZ-E436F 4GB review

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Sony Walkman NWZ-E436F 4GB
  • Sony Walkman NWZ-E436F 4GB
  • Sony Walkman NWZ-E436F 4GB
  • Sony Walkman NWZ-E436F 4GB
  • Sony Walkman NWZ-E436F 4GB
  • Sony Walkman NWZ-E436F 4GB

Summary

Our Score:

8

User Score:

Just last year it was hard to believe that Sony's Walkman brand had ever had the same cachet as Apple's iPod. Shackled by proprietary standards and wretched software, Sony's digital music players couldn't compete no matter how good the sound quality or attractive the styling was. Last year Sony finally saw sense, abandoned the awful SonicStage and embraced the world of Windows Media Player and Drag and Drop.

We loved the NWZ-A815 and liked the over-priced NWZ-A829, hoping that the stage was set for a renaissance of the Walkman's fortunes, but against very stiff competition from iRiver, SanDisk, Cowon and Apple, this latest generation certainly has its work cut out.

The new line-up is split into three ranges - the gorgeous, slimline S series, the entry level B series and the one this player belongs to, the mid-range E series. While the S series is the designer line you can hardly describe the E436F as an ugly chub-monster; less than 9mm thick and three and a half inches high, it's a nice compact player with a metal chassis finished in a mix of gloss and matt plastics. Our review unit came in black, but red, pink and blue models are available if you prefer a dash of colour.

Build quality is excellent, the 2in screen doesn't seem prone to smudging or scratching and the player exudes a sense of durability that many of its less expensive rivals would struggle to match. But before this turns into a puff piece we can still find something to moan about in the physical design: the use of a nasty proprietary USB connector when there's plenty of room for a standard mini-USB port. Curse you, Sony, for giving us another little black cable for us to lose!

Sony has stuck with its tried and tested controls, with a four-way D-pad surrounding the play/pause button, back and option buttons on either side and a volume rocker on the side. There's nothing really exciting about the GUI, based on a simple grid of function shortcuts leading to lists (with image and album artwork thumbnails) for your audio, photo and video content, but it works.

There's no difficulty in scrolling through via alphabetized lists for album, artist, genre etc. to find individual tracks, and if all else fails you can always search folder by folder. The only fly in the ointment is, as in the last generation, that you can't create playlists or queue up tracks on the device itself; you need to set them up in Media Player first.

dave doubledecks

October 24, 2008, 1:06 pm

Why is it that mp3 players these days often have the headphone socket on the bottom of the case rather than at the top?? Am I the only one who finds that annoying?

grouse

October 24, 2008, 5:09 pm

Any chance of the s series getting reviewed soon. That seems like the one to go for. More of a direct competitor to the nano, with its bigger capacities.

Juxtah

October 24, 2008, 11:17 pm

@ Dave_doubledecks


Because generally people place pockets upside down in their pockets with the back of the gadget facing outwards simply because that's the easiest thing to do, so naturally they put headphones jacks on the bottom because that's what will be facing upwards while in a pocket.

Geoff Richards

October 25, 2008, 12:40 am

I think what Juxtah means is this: people hold devices in their hand "top-up", right? Now, lower your arm and slide that device into your jeans... the top slides in first leaving the bottom pointing to the sky. I'm going to guess that's why the socket is at the bottom.

Juxtah

October 25, 2008, 1:51 am

I just realized how incomprehensible I was :P





I really should make a habit of reading what I'm writing...

dave doubledecks

October 25, 2008, 10:21 am

LoL that's where 'm going wrong! I put mine in the top pocket of my jacket. Who puts their mp3 in jeans for goodness sake? It must get pretty uncomfortable when you sit down??

Geoff Richards

October 25, 2008, 11:41 am

Haha, well, I guess it depends on the size of one's MP3 player :)


Plus of course it's never a good idea to use the back pockets where you'll sit on your player!





Thinking about it, I actually use the breast pocket of my shirt while walking to work but the logic still applies - I kinda "pour" it in head first rather than neatly slide it in face up.





I guess, Dave, if it bothers you a LOT then you'll be hunting down players with top-mounted jacks (such as my ageing Sansa). But if I think about the latest Apple iPod nano, that thing is so small, thin and light that it really doesn't matter - you'd barely feel it in any pocket (jeans or otherwise) especially compared to a mobile phone.





Still, it's always interesting to learn what features are most important to different people. Thanks for your feedback.

mobbaddict

October 26, 2008, 8:32 pm

I bought this DAP one month ago to replace my 2 GB Clip, and i was so disappointed by its audio performance... compared to the Clip this Sony suffers from a lack of detail and clarity, but the worst point is no doubt its terrible output power... i could barely feed my Denon D1001 full-size headphone (only 32 ohm impedence). I'd say the Clip is about 50% more powerful... it changes a lot of things. EQing makes things even worse as adding bass or highs lowers even more the output volume... Since then i sold it and bought a 4 GB Clip.


Please not i have also a Sony Vaio Pocket which is great (much better than the E436), i love Sony but they desappointed me on this one.

Maarten

January 27, 2009, 2:31 pm

Which player would you say is better (especially minded the sound quality with the pair of earbuds in the box, because i actually dont want to spend money on buying earbuds)





this one, or the Iriver Lplayer?

Rickysio

March 16, 2009, 11:55 am

@mobbaddict





"i was so disappointed by its audio performance... compared to the Clip this Sony suffers from a lack of detail and clarity,"





Really? I can't help but to be suspicious. Even a hearing impaired person like me could hear the distinct difference between the E436F and the Clip. (For the record, the Sony outputted much more clearer and clean music than the clip. Much more detailed, too.) I gander you were using stock headphones for the Sony - Or your ears are much more damaged than mine.

skay

April 11, 2009, 12:24 am

@mobbaddict





Spot on! The volume output -- or lack thereof -- of the NWZ line is ridiculous. I have the 8gb version, and while it's ok with the provided earbuds, with anything larger (i.e. Grado SR60's or even Senn PX100's) the sound is not even low-fi quality. It's just LOW, period. I added a headphone amp and it's totally night and day. I tried my g/f's Shuffle with the PX100's and it didn't need an amp for volume, although the total SQ of those cans was increased by using the little headphone amp.





Also, since there's no easy option in the Walkman's settings to switch back and forth between MTP and UMS, there's a little trick to un-do the MTP drivers so that the unit becomes a straight USB Mass Storage drag/drop unit. You have to go into Device Manager (Windows XP), find the Walkman in the Portable Devices group, right click, then select Update Driver. Then select "No, not this time", then Next. Select "Install from a list or specific location (Advanced) then Next. Select "Don't Search, I will choose the driver to install", then Next. (Be sure to check the box beside Show Compatible Hardware) Highlight USB Mass Storage Device, then Next. (To revert back to MTP, just do the same thing but choose MTP instead of USB Mass Storage Device.) Personally, I'd never go back to the MTP mode. Having the Walkman seen by the computer as just another USB mass storage device allows the drag/drop transfers to go much faster, and I can defrag the Walkman now, whereas that was not possible before in MTP mode.





Also, a proprietary USB cable is just a dumb, unnecessary, all too typical Sony idea. And the fact that there's no free software bundled to convert avi's and mpg's to the necessary video format is just another reason this unit is, at times, a royal P.I.T.A. All in all, it's a relatively well made unit, but because of the low volume, proprietary USB cable, lack of bundled software to convert videos to the accepted format, and the limited number of recognized audio formats, I'd definitely choose another brand the next time around.

MrMojo

September 24, 2009, 11:22 pm

The most annoying things is that NO media software is included. Media Manager is SO outdated and the Content Transfer software is only meant for file transfer!





HELLO, PEOPLE! Do you really enjoy having that darn Sony logo appearing instead of the album art?! I certainly do NOT!





Quit saying "use drag n drop"! I guess many of you don't care about album art or creating playlists But I certainly do!





I have many compilation "playlists" which the player does NOT support. It'll spread the underlying music to each artist's folder while the playlist is NOT transferred! You'll have to use "folders" to listen to EACH darn artist manually unless you "SHUFFLE ALL" files! What a Pain in the A**!





No wonder Sony priced the devices Lower than the Nanos? It does NOT sell that well and can ONLY compete on price alone!





I returned mine and will NOT buy another Sony mp3 player until Sony wakes up and makes GOOD media software for their players (and SE phones, which I also own) that CAN rip music, edit files (i.e. album art tag) and 3) create playlists especially compilation playlists!!





At least Sony, FINALLY, adopted the universal standard for their phones (and mp3 players?) in that it will start using Mini-USB ports. The newer E-440 series (or E-430 in Americas) are now shown with those ports!





Now, if Sony can only include media software similar to iTunes!





Despite many iPod haters, iTunes is very good in ripping music, editing files and creating playlists! AND.... It's F-R-E-E!





iTunes is still considered one of the Better (if not The Best) media software to beat!

diamondcat

February 13, 2010, 2:39 pm

This is the third Walkman I have owned and to be honest, I don't think I'd buy another (none of them have lasted very long and I was very careful with them). I was really disappointed in the durability of this player - it died before the year was out, I sent it off to be repaired, it came back and died again in the first week. Looks like I'll be off to Apple for my next MP3 player.

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