It’s not too expensive, the controls are pretty intuitive and the sound quality is as good as you can expect from an MP3 player in this class. You really don't need to know much more about the Sony NWZ-B152 to tell that it's a compelling alternative to the 4th Gen Apple iPod shuffle for those in the market for a music-playing gym companion.
Of course there's more to the story than just those basics, and Sony doesn't have an entirely cut and dry victory on its hands. At £28 the NWZ-B152's 2GB of capacity is about £8 less than an equivalent iPod shuffle, but the Walkman is a larger device, making it slightly less portable. A decent part of that bulk comprises the USB port, which is hidden under a cap that's almost begging to go missing.
The build quality of the NWZ-B152 isn't outstanding, with the plastic casing feeling, well, plasticy and the Forward/Back control proving a little wobbly. There's enough metal that is doesn't feel horrendously budget, but it’s definitely a step down from the more rigid construction of Apple's players.
On the plus side, that USB connector allows you plug directly into a computer to transfer music rather than fumble around for the appropriate cable or dock. In doing so, you can immediately drag music onto it giving it a notable advantage over rival players that require software to manage their libraries. That said, we think that most iPod shuffle buyers will have a larger iPod as well, so they'll probably not care as much about their gym-bound player needing also needing to use iTunes. Not that we wouldn't opt for drag-and-drop transfers every time given the choice.
One particularly notable feature of the NWZ-B152 is the player's ability to pull 90 minutes of power from just three minutes of charging. If you're the type not to notice you've forgotten to charge your player until you come to use it, this will prove a very useful ability. On a full charge the NWZ-B152 claims 18 hours of playback while an iPod shuffle is good for just 15 hours. However, in our use we found ourselves wanting the change the music on the device - 2GB is good for less than 500 tracks - before we needed to recharge it; naturally jacking in to update the songlist charges the battery so the it never ran down fully in everyday use.