Sony's latest entrant to the MP3 player market is the NW-E000 series. While we're fans of the technicolour industrial design and the series is priced to move (£99, 2GB; £79, 1GB; £59, 512MB), make sure you're comfortable with the required SonicStage software and Connect Music Store before you take the plunge.
The NW-E000 series is available in a multitude of colours and capacities (2GB NW-E005 and 1GB NW-E003 in black, pink or violet; and 512MB NW-E002 in black or violet) and includes an FM radio and a simple OLED display. It measures 25 by 79 by 14mm and weighs 25g.
Outside of the typically attractive Sony design, the colourful NW-E000 series has a competitive price tag and joins the iPod Shuffle and Samsung YP-U2 on the current built-in USB A-list. Like the flagship NW-A1200, the little players are natively compatible with MP3, ATRAC3 (plus) and most interestingly, unprotected WMA and AAC files. Sony seems to think opening up format compatibility will make users forget that it once didn't play nice with MP3.
Though we haven't heard this device ourselves, sound quality should be above average, coming from Sony. The device includes a 5-mode EQ (including custom) and the built-in FM (with 30 presets) is a nice extra. The rechargeable battery is rated for an impressive 28 hours, playing back ATRAC3plus at 48Kbps. Mileage will vary greatly, we think. Our colleagues at CNET Asia were disappointed with the battery life. A three-minute quick charge will give you three hours of battery life.
Like all Sony MP3 players, you have to use SonicStage software to manage your music. The latest version (CP 4.0) has some added features and the integrated Connect music store, but it's still not the ideal introduction to jukebox software (we believe many E000 owners will be first-time users). It would be nice to be able to transfer music onto the device using Windows Explorer -- as it stands, you can only store data that way.
If you want to buy tracks, you must use the Connect store or purchase non-DRM tracks from eMusic, for example (no Napster, no iTunes). If the display is anything like the A1200's (hidden under plastic), you won't be able to read it very well in daylight. Also, because it's a one-line display, it can be difficult to browse songs, though it beats the Shuffle's display. You can rotate the display for right- or left-handed use.
The NW-E000 series is stylish and affordable, so it will do well. Owners should be satisfied with performance, too. Customers should plead with Sony to simplify its Connect software (SonicStage 4.0) though, which devalues the overall NW-series experience.
Additional editing by Kate Macefield