If you long to block out the rest of the world like a teenager that's a bit too fond of My Chemical Romance, then this music player from Sony might do the trick. It's the first flash-based model to feature built-in noise-cancellation technology, which promises to stop the racket from the outside world intruding on your tunes.
At £80, it certainly isn't one of the cheapest players around, especially as it only comes with 1GB of memory, but it does promise to match the innovative noise-cancellation feature with exceptional battery life and pristine sound quality.
Despite these plus points, however, the Sony NW-S703F never really manages to establish itself as anything other than a pretty average product. The player's fiddly controls mean that we could never feel completely comfortable with it, and despite some useful recent improvements, Sony's SonicStage software still remains way behind the likes of iTunes or even Windows Media Player in terms of usability and reliability.
The NW-S703F is about the same size as a pack of chewing gum, and although our model was decked out in black, it is also available in pink and violet. Despite its diminutive dimensions it actually feels quite heavy when you hold it in your hand, but far from this being a negative, it just reinforces the fact that it feels remarkably solid and well built.
You can forget about scroll wheels or buttons for navigation here. Instead, Sony has chosen a rocker wheel that you flick back and forwards to make selections. That's simple enough, but things start to get a bit complicated when you need to change the play mode. To skip tracks, you need to push the wheel inwards first, and to move through the albums stored in the memory, you pull it out towards the edge. It's all rather fiddly to use -- after a while you find yourself wishing that Sony's engineers hadn't tried to be so clever and instead just gone with something simple like a four-way directional pad.
At least the player has a screen, unlike the iPod Shuffle. It's a colour OLED display and, although it's very small, there's just enough room to show three lines of text along with a tiny thumbnail of album art. While it's bright and easy to read, the colours look slightly washed out -- a problem that's common to most devices that use OLED displays.
You can fit around 250 songs in MP3 format on the 1GB of memory, and it will also play both Sony's own ATRAC format and WMA files. If, however, you want to buy tracks online, you're limited to Sony's own Connect music store -- the NW-S703F can't play DRM-protected WMA tracks.