You have several options for getting content on the E436F. You can just drag and drop it into the correct folder just as you would with most modern players, or alternatively use Windows Media Player 11 to sync your media libraries. However, Sony also supplies a dedicated drag and drop Content Transfer applet where you drag files onto the little window and it copies them over to the correct folder. You can drag and drop directly from WMP11 or even iTunes should you wish, though as anyone stuck in a love/hate relationship with Apple’s ecosystem will instantly suspect, DRM-enabled tracks are not supported in the latter case.
Finally, there’s a Media Manager application that gives you more detailed options for the transfer and handling of media between PC and Walkman. This unfortunately bought back some nasty flashbacks from the bad old days of SonicStage, and I’m not sure I can see many people using it in preference to WMP11 or any of the great third-party media management apps out there.
Video playback is rapidly becoming de-rigeur on all but the smallest, cheapest players, and the E436F has some interesting capabilities in this regard. The 2in screen is theoretically capable of playback at a full 30fps and, with support for DRM-enabled WMV9 files as well as H.264 AVC and MPEG-4, it’s one of a growing number of players compatible with the BBC’s iPlayer service.
That’s all well and good, but if I was particularly interested in video playback this wouldn’t be my device of choice. The 240 x 320 TFT screen is nice, bright and pin-sharp, but in the default portrait format you have to really squint to see what’s happening on the screen. Rotating the view to a landscape format helps a lot, but as the screen has a 4:3 rather than a 16:9 aspect ratio any material in the now standard format is cramped between black bars.
Nor is the motion as smooth as Sony makes out; while there are periods when you can believe it’s running at 30fps, there are also noticeable judders, even in the sample material supplied by Sony on the player. On the plus side, the iPlayer compatibility works just as advertised. I downloaded last night’s edition of ”Later… Live” and seconds later I was watching it on that teeny weeny screen.
To put things in perspective, we have made similar complaints about other comparable players, including the otherwise wonderful 4th generation iPod Nano. Two inches might be big enough for five minutes of light viewing, but watch too many hour-long programmes and you’ll only please one person: your local optician.
We’ve similar reservations about photo viewing – even your best shots won’t make much impact on a screen this size. If you really want photos and video playback, our advice would be to step up a device class to something like the iPod touch or iRiver Spinn.