Thirty years after revolutionizing portable music with the Walkman for playing cassette tapes, Sony is trying to master the digital media player with the X Series Walkman.
Tunes sound great and videos look crisp on the device, but Sony still has a lot of work to do to catch up with Apple’s market-ruling iPod. While the X Series brims with features like Wi-Fi and noise cancellation, the limitations and execution problems make it somewhat disappointing overall.
The X Series is sleek and elegant-looking, its black, sparkly rectangular body dominated on the front by a bright, sharp, Organic Light Emitting Diode touch screen.
The screen is excellent for watching short videos and viewing photos, and it’s very responsive to finger taps and swipes, making it easy to scroll through lists of pictures, songs and videos and select media for playback.
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As expected with a Sony device, music sounded great on the X Series, and there are plenty of options for adjusting it to your liking.
Price: The device costs $300 or $400, depending on whether you want 16 gigabytes or 32 gigabytes of storage. By contrast, you can buy an iPod Touch for $229 to $399.
Radio: The device also comes with an application for Slacker Inc.’s Internet radio service, and a few stations have been preloaded. Songs sounded crystal-clear.
You’ll need to register with Slacker if you want to keep using the application after 30 days – the X Series comes with a Slacker user ID code you can use to create a free Slacker account. From the computer, you can add or delete stations from your list and you can refresh the application’s music over the X Series’ Wi-Fi.
Noise cancellation: One highlight of the X Series is its built-in noise-canceling feature, which has different settings for use on a bus or train, on a plane or in an office.
Sadly, this only works with the earbuds that come with the device. They produce better sound than the average set of freebie earbuds, block ambient noise well even without the noise-canceling feature and fit comfortably in tiny ears.
WI-FI: Like Apple Inc.’s iPod Touch and Microsoft Corp.’s Zune, the X Series has Wi-Fi built in – a perk that can really enhance a multimedia player.
However, it’s only half-baked on Sony’s device. With an included application for video-sharing site YouTube, you can watch videos on the small screen – I watched a very crisp clip of Elvis Costello performing in a music store. You’ll have to make sure your Web connection is good, or the video stream will cut out.
This was all fun, but the party stopped upon attempting to open the X Series’ Web browser. Sony really, really needs to go back to the drawing board with this, as it’s a chore to input Web addresses and view resulting Web pages.
I did manage to check out and update my status for Facebook using the social-networking site’s mobile page, but each time I got a “lack of resource” message from the X Series before it would load the page.
Battery: At least you won’t run out of juice while doing these things: The X Series’ rechargeable battery is rated for a strong 33 hours of music listening time and nine hours of video watching; after a day of listening to music, watching videos and reading news stories online, the player still had plenty of power left.