Now that Steve Jobs has stepped down as Apple CEO, it's the perfect opportunity for other brands to try and douse those powerful iPod flames. Sony's latest entry to the dwindling decicated MP3 player market is the NWZ-E463, a 4GB solid state player that retails for around £70.
Rather than driving the price of this player to an aggressive all-new low, Sony attempts to catch our attention with an array of colourful finishes. Our review model was decked out in a rather fetching lime green pixellated pattern, but pink, light blue, red and black versions are also available - each with its own pattern.
This finish is overlaid with a layer of transparent plastic, giving a pleasant impression of depth to the front of the NWZ-E463. The front nav and playback buttons are also daubed with the same basic colour seen in the main body - in this case lime green. Not so good on a bath or porcelain throne, but perfect for a cheery little MP3 player.
It's a good-looking device if you want a player a bit more conspicuously fun than something like the Cowon J3. The back of the player isn't quite as snazzy, though. It's plastic and finished to look like anodised metal, but scratches fairly easily. If it was made of real metal, the NWZ-E463 would have the high-end feel of an iPod Classic or iPod Touch - but as is it's left languishing in the mid-range field. It doesn't feel like a million dollars. More like £70, which is fair enough.
There are a pair of slight disappointments to its design, though. Continuing Sony's love of proprietary elements, the NWZ-E463 uses a proprietary data transfer socket rather than a standard micro or mini USB, and there's no memory card slot. You're stuck with the 4GB of internal memory, which is enough for around 35 albums at decent 192kbps quality.
Aside from the front buttons, there are three on-body controls to this player. The left edge houses the standard up and down volume buttons, while below this is the hold switch - which comes in handy once you dump the player into your pocket. 10mm thick and weighing just 58g, it takes up significantly less space than a phone, and is small enough to carry comfortably in-hand while out running. It's not quite the perfect gym bunny's player though - you may be better off with a Sony B series or on-ear W series player if sport's your thang.
Format support is reasonable, including WMA, AAC and WAV on top of MP3, but without lossless FLAC or APE compatibility it can't claim to be a real audiophile player. The NWZ-E463 does support photos and some video files, but thanks to the tiny screen both are of fairly limited use. That said, pixel density is pretty high at 200dpi - it's a 240x320 pixel display, which is not bad for 2in.