Sony Walkman NWZ-W262 review
With the standard and video MP3 player market dominated by the ubiquitous presence of Apple's iPod, other manufacturers are putting more effort into cleverly-designed products aimed at niche markets. Sony's 2GB Walkman NWZ-W262 is a perfect example: a lightweight MP3 player that's integrated into a pair of earphones that wraps around your head.
It's made for sport and fitness fanatics and it's a great design. The earphones sit in your ear canal, and a loop runs over the top of your ears and round the back of your head. This means that you can happily run or lift free weights without worrying about getting tangled in a long headphone cable. The entire thing's waterproof, too, so you can rinse the player off if it gets covered in sweat.
Unfortunately, the loop between the headphones isn't adjustable, which means that if you have a narrow head it won’t fit so snugly and you won't get so much support. On our fairly narrow size 7 skull the band was loose and didn’t provide much support, so the earpiece was supported only by the earphone in our canal. This isn't too bad if you're doing something static, such as weight lifting, or even low-intensity running, but once we picked up the pace we found ourselves having to shift the earpiece frequently back into position. A flexible loop that could be bent to the desired size would have solved this problem.
If your skull is big enough to support it, the NWZ-W262 is perfectly designed for its intended purpose. It takes a little while to get used to the position of the controls, as you can't see the buttons you're trying to press, but once you've learned their layout using them becomes second nature. The right earpiece bears the play and track skipping buttons, while the left houses your volume controls and a button that lets you switch between shuffle and playlist mode. Tactile dots make individual buttons easier to identify and voice prompts tell you which mode you're in.
Audio quality is very good indeed. A strident, driving bass defines the sound without drowning out higher notes, creating a sound balance that's perfect if you're trying to keep running that extra mile. Meanwhile, the earplug-style earpieces sit securely in place but only require slight adjustment to allow in more external sound, which is handy if you're running on the road and need to listen out for cars.
The NWZ-W262 has an unusually short battery life, lasting a little under eight and half hours in our tests, but it also charges very quickly - plugging it in for few minutes before you head to the gym gets you about an hour's worth of playback. We also liked the transfer software - a simple application that installs from the player itself and gives you a box that you can drag files to from iTunes or a folder on your PC. The player also appears as a standard USB media device and supports MTP transfers from Windows Media Player.
The short battery life - and commensurately short charge times- waterproof design and emphatic bass are tailor-made for training. The NWZ-W262 isn't a great player to take on long trips, but it's very well designed for its intended purpose - all that's keeping it from an award is the lack of flexibility in its ear loops that makes it unsuitable for all head sizes.