Ever since we came across the Sansa e260 from SanDisk we here at TR have been trying to convince everyone that it's the best flash based mp3 player on the planet. Video playback, simple drag and drop transfer, and a very slick interface make the Sansa the most feature rich and easiest player to use. But, despite what we say, Apple's marketing clout and the public's "keeping up with the jones' " mentality has meant the iPod nano still reigns supreme in terms of sales. So, with Sony's even larger marketing team (and budget) can its new video Walkman finally make a dent in the iPod's dominance?
Available in 2GB(A805), 4Gb(A806), and 8GB(A808) capacities, the specifications of the NW-A800 series are certainly up there with the Sansa and utterly trounce the nano. Its 2in (42 x 31mm) 320 x 240 pixel screen is the biggest of any player in this class and is nearly twice that of the nano, battery life is as high as 30 hours while continuously playing music, and the pièce de ré·sis·tance is MPEG4/H.264 video playback at up to 30fps - twice the rate of the Sansa - which it can keep playing for up to 8 hours. All this and it's still only 9 x 44 x 87mm which is positively anorexic compared to the Sansa. All of which puts the Walkman way out in front of the competition, but as we all know there's more to these things than just statistics so let's see how it performs in use.
The moment I set eyes on the NW-A805 I was won over by its sleek lines and well proportioned layout. The large screen, the subtle curve of the sides, and the little bits of chrome trimming combine to make this the best looking player on the market. As a conceptual design the iPod would probably win the award but on looks alone the Walkman wins hands down.
It's ironic, then, that I don't actually like the feel of the Walkman in my hand. Super slim design may be great for your pocket/purse but, when handling a device, my big hands like to have something to get hold of. When using the A805, I found myself feeling paranoid of dropping it all the time and it was a real pig to pick up off the table. Of course I have the same problem with the nano, so it may just be me. Personally, I find that the Sansa is the perfect thickness and shape to handle comfortably.
Another ergonomics complaint I have is that the hold slider is situated on the back in the bottom right hand corner where it's nearly impossible to reach without flipping the device round or using two hands. This is in contrast to the nano and Sansa that have the hold switch on their top edge where your index finger or thumb can easily reach them.
Elsewhere the layout is much of a muchness. Volume is controlled by a rocker on the right edge and along the bottom edge are connections for the data cable and your headphones. The main controls are situated under the screen, in easy reach of your thumbs.