Sony Walkman NWZ-A846 review
Although Sony stopped making its iconic cassette Walkmans in 2010, the brand lives on with the Walkman NWZ-A846, Sony's thinnest ever MP3 player. Its slightly textured matt black body encases 32GB of flash storage and a 2.8in OLED display, where a grid of nine icons makes it easy to access all your options and media.
The player looks and feels beautiful. Even its buttons are lovely, designed as a sequence of concentric circles with the play button in the middle, directional controls on the next ring, and the back and option keys straddling the two.
The supplied earbuds are designed to work with the Walkman's built in active noise cancelling circuitry – not all headphones will. They're excellent by the standards of supplied headphones, but still sound a bit muddy at lower volumes. The noise cancelling works well, although we didn’t like the characteristic high-pitched whine that seems an integral part of any form of active noise cancellation.
The player's basic sound quality, which we tested with a variety of headphones, is excellent – not that we've had problems with the audio quality of an MP3 player in years – with a detailed and finely balanced sound.
The A846 connects to your PC using an irritating proprietary connector – we'd have preferred a standard microUSB port – but doesn't require special software. Windows detected it as a Media Transfer Protocol (MTP) device, so you can copy music and videos to it using either Windows Media Player or by just dragging files to its relevant directories in Windows Explorer.
Unfortunately, audio format support is surprisingly poor – the A846 can't play OGG, FLAC or the Audible audiobook format. These are all niche audio types, but most players support at least one. The only supported image format is JPEG – our TIFF and BMP files couldn't be displayed.
We were pleasantly surprised by the scope of its ability to play videos, though, with support for codecs and wrappers including MPEG-4, WMV9, H.264 and the WMV-DRM formats used by services like BBC iPlayer. It can't handle video playlists, but that's a minor niggle.
The A846's screen has a native resolution of 400x240, but the player can cope with video in a variety of other resolutions. We were prompted to convert most unsupported video files automatically, although it couldn't work out what to do with more obscure formats such as MKV. Video quality is excellent, thanks to the bright, even OLED display, which has a surprisingly wide range of viewing angles.
At £199, the A846 costs just £25 less than an iPod Touch with the same amount of storage – that's expensive by any standard, particularly for a player that doesn't even have a touchscreen. It's beautifully made, fits in your pocket easily, sounds great and has a lovely display; if it cost £70 less, it'd be a good buy, but its poor audio format support and a painfully steep price count against it.
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