Sony's Walkman players have been experiencing a new lease of life after the company's decision last year to dump the horrid SonicStage software and finally join the rest of the market's more open approach. The first player we reviewed to take baby steps into this brave new world was the NWD-B105 in August. Ed then looked at the NWZ-A815 - which was essentially the A805 shorn of its SonicStage shackles - and was suitably impressed.
Now that the novelty has worn off, however, the new generation of Walkman players is going to have to work a touch harder to impress. The new 16GB NWZ-A829 is up against the likes of SanDisk's excellent Sansa View and the equally impressive, if a little more expensive, Creative Zen 16GB. It makes an immediate impression.
Gone are the circular buttons and matt-black finish of the A815 - they've been replaced with an altogether more angular design, complete with shiny, glossy surfaces and chrome-trimmed controls - and looks very nice indeed. It puts the View and Zen considerably in the shade.
The Walkman is a few grams heavier than its predecessor - 5g to be precise - but it's still an extremely pocket-friendly 58g. It's a touch wider and taller than the A815 too, at 50.2 x 93.6mm, but makes up for these slight increases with a fractionally slimmer profile (9.3mm) and, more importantly, a much larger 2.4in screen to match the one on the bulkier Sansa View. The screen is bright and colourful, plays back videos at up to 30fps, and there's a rather neat plastic dongle included that plugs into a socket on the back and acts as a kickstand for hands-free watching.
Elsewhere things are not so different. The resolution is identical (240 x 320), battery life is still a highly impressive 36 hours for audio, and file format compatibility remains the same. For audio you can play MP3, WMA, and AAC files (all unprotected, of course), while video is limited to MPEG-4 and H.264 files. The latter isn't too much of a problem, to be honest, as you're going to have to down-convert any stored video to play on a small PMP such as this anyway. But the View is a touch more flexible and will play files up to VGA in resolution, not just the screen's native resolution. It's also somewhat galling considering the high price of the player that you have to pay extra for Sony's 'Pro' software to get video conversion software bundled.