Apple has more or less taken over the portable music-player market with its massively popular iPod range. But there are some things the iPod doesn't do that well, so Sony's hoping it can steal back a portion of the limelight with its new A series Walkman, the NWZ-A865, which packs a 2.8-inch touchscreen. A listing on Play suggests this 16GB model will cost £130 when it launches at the end of July.
Other versions of this device are available with differing amounts of storage: the 64GB NWZ-A867, the 32GB NWZ-A866, and the 8GB NWZ-A864.
We've gone hands-on with the NWZ-A865, and here are our first impressions.
Let's get physical
The first thing you'll notice about the NWZ-A865 is the 2.8-inch touchscreen on the front. You'll use this to navigate through the device's menus, and we were really impressed by how speedy and responsive the touchscreen felt -- we whizzed through lists of songs with reckless abandon, and didn't experience any stutter or slowdown while doing so.
Despite relying mainly on the touchscreen, the NWZ-A865 hasn't given up on physical buttons completely. Beneath the screen, there's a big, semi-circular home button that will zip you back to the home screen.
There are physical playback controls down the right-hand side of the device too. That's good, because it means you'll be able to control your music conveniently from your pocket, something that's not possible with the iPod touch.
Keep it simple
We'd wondered whether Sony would try slapping Google's Android operating system on one of its Walkman devices, but it hasn't opted for that in the case of the NWZ-A865. Instead, you get the same interface as on previous Walkman models, with icons arranged in a grid. We've found navigating through this system to be simple in the past, so we hope it'll be just as easy this time around.
Bluetooth support means you'll be able to use the NWZ-A865 with compatible wireless headphones if you're really averse to wires. Other goodies include a karaoke mode, which scrolls the words to songs on the screen if you have a supported lyrics file on the device, and an FM radio.
One of the best things about recent Walkman models is that you don't have to rely on sluggish desktop software to fill your device with music and videos. Once you plug the gadget into your computer, you can simply drag your files across using an explorer window. That makes organising music much easier than using, say, iTunes, which happens to be the work of the devil himself.
On the other hand, you won't have access to features like the iTunes music store, or the wealth of apps, games and Web browsing tools available for Apple's iOS platform.
The Sony Walkman NWZ-A865 is up against tough competition, but it looks promising. We'll be looking at issues such as portability, battery life and sound quality in our full review. Stay tuned.
Edited by Charles Kloet