Published on June 10th, 2009 | by James Smythe1
Sony X Series Walkman Review (NWZX1050B)
The NWZ range of walkmans was already well known for their excellent sound quality and the X Series ups the game a little further with the inclusion of noise cancelling, an OLED Touch Screen, Wi-Fi and a Web Browser.
These additions mean there is an inevitable comparison to the iPod Touch, but can it really compete with a player that has such a dominant hold on the market?
The X Series is quite a small player measuring 52.5w x 97.4h x 10.5d mm compared to the iPod touch at 61.8w x 110h x 8.5d mm, and this small size means that it has a smaller 3 inch screen compared to the 3.5 inch screen of the Touch. However what the X Series lack in size it makes up with the quality of the screen, its OLED screen far outclasses the iPod Touch screen.
I found the touch screen on the X Series to be excellent, however it doesn’t have the multi-touch or accelerometer of the touch. It does have coverflow, which is excellent though personally I find it easier just using the list view, I find coverflow to be a bit gimmicky.
In terms of looks I think it will be a bit love it or hate it. It has more angular edges and faux granite sides. I can’t think why someone would come up with the faux granite texture for a PMP but I do quite like it and I generally like the overall style of the X Series.
In the past Sony has got a lot of grief for the abysmal software it used to transfer music to its devices. For some strange reason people still seem to think Sony use Sonicstage. I can assure you this is long gone, in fact I completely ignored any CDs that came with the X Series and just plugged it straight into my laptop. It is recognised as a mass storage device which therefore means that you can drag and drop music onto the device or you can sync it via Windows Media Player. It should also be compatible with iTunes as long as you are not using and files with DRM. Therefore I find the X Series is far much user friendly when it comes to connectivity than any Apple device.
There were a couple of minor issues with the connectivity. I found transfer slightly slow and the device doesn’t accept Flac files. Not a huge deal to me personally but audiophiles tend to have a problem with this. More annoying is the use of a proprietary connector between the device and the PC. This is more of a personal gripe than anything else, a lot of other players do this, including iPods, but I just don’t understand why they all cant use mini USB!
When it comes down to playing your music the X Series really shines especially compared to the iPod. The audio quality is far superior than an iPod and the bundled headphones are infinitely better than the crap ones Apple send.
Unfortunately there are a couple of little issues here, I actually found my relatively cheap Sennheiser CX300 sounded better. So if you want to really make the most of the audio quality you probably are best to upgrade your earphones. The other problem here is that the noise cancelling that comes with the X Series actually requires you to use the Sony supplied earphones. This is because the earphones have a microphone in them which is used in the noise cancelling process, but to be fair the noise cancelling wouldn’t work if the microphone was on the device itself as it needs to sample the sound as close to your ear as possible.
When it comes to the noise cancelling itself I have mixed feelings for it. While it did seem to work quite well for some reason when I switched it on it started to make me feel slightly nauseas. At first I thought I was imagining it but on further research I found that some other people have experienced it and the explanation given is:
“Sarah Stackpole, a New York ear, nose and throat doctor, speculates that the sound waves that cancel each other out may still transmit enough very low frequency vibrations to stimulate the balance receptors that are connected to the hearing hair cells in the inner ear. These vibrations are akin to those caused by blast explosions or barotrauma in scuba diving, but much less forceful, she says. The disequilibrium that some people may feel from this is made worse because the vibrations falsely signal that the head is moving, but the eyes report that the head is stationary. Those mixed signals make the headphone wearer feel dizzy.”
While I did not get time to check the video capabilities of the player there have been mixed reports. The X Series has a 432 x 240 resolution however the video mode can only handle 320 x 240 clips at a maximum.
As for its Wi-Fi it managed to stream videos nicely but you are forced to use a phone like keypad requiring multiple presses of a key before reaching the correct letter.
The biggest stumbling block of the X Series is the web browser. I personally thought it couldn’t be all that bad, but I decided to try a few websites out and one included Diggnation to see if I could download their podcast. Unfortunately no such luck, the website was completely unusable using the X Series browser.
Lastly the X Series does not have applications that the iTouch has and this seems to be a deal breaker for many. The App store allows the Touch to become much more than just a PMP including a games machine and this certainly gives Apple an advantage over the X Series. I am quite surprised Sony didn’t try and integrate it with the PS3 and the Playstation Network somehow, though maybe this will be something that will be added in later generations.
In conclusion the X Series is without a doubt a great device. In terms of a music player it is probably one of the better devices on the market, possibly even the best if you can cope without Flac support. In terms of the extended functionality the player is somewhat of a let down and I think this will mean it does not get the praise it deserves.
At the end of day if you want a device primarily as a music player the X Series is a much better choice than the iPhone, but if you are more interested in being able to play games, browse the net etc the iPod Touch will be a better choice.
It is also worth noting that currently on Amazon the 16GB X Series costs £179.99 while the 16GB iPod Touch costs £196.89 if you then take into account an extra £20 or replace the awful iPod earphones then the the X Series is quite a bit cheaper than the Touch. In fact I wish Sony had priced the X Series at £150 and £200 for the 16GB and 32GB versions as then it would be much easier to recommend the X Series over the Touch.