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A few weeks ago I took a look at the mid-range model in Sony's updated Walkman range: the NWZ-E436F. It was a great little player, boasting excellent sound quality and coming in at a very aggressive price point, but - much as I liked it - I couldn't quite bring myself to dish out the awards. Maybe it was the slightly jerky video playback, maybe it was the limited 4GB capacity, but Sony's little player didn't quite do enough to leave the competition in the dust. It did, however, leave me hungry to see the new model in the premium S series: the NWZ-S639F we're looking at today.
Sony has made much of the fact that this is the thinnest Walkman ever, but the big surprise for me was how similar this S series model was to the E series I was still listening to only a week or so ago. In fact, the S639F is a whole 2.1mm less wide, 4.6mm less tall and a mere 1mm thinner, with the same size 2in screen and the same control layout as its less pricey sibling. Woo-hoo! To be fair, however, the E series felt very light in the pocket and this one feels practically unnoticeable.
The proprietary USB connector (boo) and headphone socket sit in the same place at the bottom of the unit, and the only other major physical difference is that, where the E series was all matt and gloss plastics the S series is all solid, sturdy aluminium. Sony's design still feels just a tad less inspired than Apple's, but you can't really fault it in terms of fitness for purpose.
I've similar feelings about the interface, which again seems to have been carried over wholesale from the E436F. Does Sony have anything to match CoverFlow or the accelerometer-controlled screen orientation of the Nano? No, but it does have a functional GUI where every option is pretty much where you'd expect it. The S639F works well one-handed, and the mainly list-based browsing options, with album cover thumbnails, make it easy to track down the audio or video track you're looking for.