The hardware itself isn’t much to write home about either, at least in terms of looks and design. In fact most of the people I showed it to said the NW-E015 resembled a lipstick or tube of mascara more than a digital music player, which gives you an idea of the level of build quality and finish. With no retainer strap, you’ll almost certainly lose the lid that covers the integral USB plug and the small plastic buttons ranged along the edge of the player, with silver skip buttons built into the lid collar, make it fiddly to use.
To be fair, there are a couple of features worth having here such as a bright, easy-to-read organic EL screen and impressive 30-hour battery life. I don’t think that, in general use, I ever saw the battery gauge fall below three bars out of three and it seems to charge quickly too. There’s also a rather cool browse by “jacket” mode, which allows you to flick browse your music by album art instead of having to rely on the titles. But this isn’t implemented very well and it interrupts whatever you’re listening to as soon as you switch over to it.
The one area where the NW-E015 does shine is in sound quality, which is superior to most other players in its class, matching the more expensive iRiver T60 I was so impressed with, and surpassing Apple’s nano. The best thing about it is that the 2GB capacity allows you to stick several albums in ATRAC Advanced Lossless format on the player before running out of space, although you’ll have to invest a fair wedge in decent headphones before you hear the difference between this and 192kbit/sec ATRAC 3 or MP3 encoding. In either format, though, it doesn’t disappoint.