Like Cher and Madonna, most of the world’s pop culture icons have just a single name. Walkman is clearly another and, like these two eighties divas, it hopes its latest reinvention will grant it another day in the sun.
Styled with what I can only describe as a bar-of-soap-influence, these new players come in 20GB (10.4 x 6.5 x 2.1cm) and 6GB (8.8 x 5.5 x 1.87mm) editions. The larger is codenamed the NW-A3000 and appears in violet or silver, the smaller referred to as the NW-A1000 steps out in pink and blue. I hasten to add, Sony would rather you just call them Walkmans though… Y’okay Mein Fuhrer!
Now – despite the new lines potential to be accidentally grabbed, taken to the shower and rubbed under your armpits – what I do really like about them are the organic displays. Sony has already used these to great effect in its E400, E500 (you can win an E507 player by filling in our Reader Survey… *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*), and Bean series of players and I have a soft spot for the clever way in which they blend the screen with the exterior. Two inches are on offer if you go for the A3000, 1.5in should you choose the little A1000.
Functionality sounds promising too, with two variations on the venerable old shuffle button. “My Favorite Shuffle” (yup, Yankie spelling) automatically mixes up and booms out the 100 most played tracks, while “Time Machine Shuffle” randomises selections based on a year picked out of the blue.
General navigation takes a – dare I say it? – leaf out of the iPod book with a root menu that shows Music Library, Settings, Playlist and Now Playing, amongst others. Track searching is also remarkably similar with files searchable via Genre, Artist, Album, Song, Release Date and Rating, though the Recently Transferred option is a very welcome addition.
Supported audio formats are unsurprisingly limited to MP3 and ATRAC (we waited years for MP3, so how long for OGG?). Encouragingly, the new Walkmans also ship with entirely new software called “CONNECT Player”. We can’t see how it can be any worse than the disastrous SonicStage…
UK pricing will be £199 for the 20GB version and £169 for the 6GB (do I really need to tell you which one to go for?) when these slippery looking little fellas hit the shops in November. Expect them to be the number two selling digital music players this Christmas…