I got time with Sony's first video-capable Walkman, the a810 and a610, and I think I have a finer appreciation for Sony Hardware now that they've stop floundering around in the software game.
They're strikingly similar with the a810 having a sleeker design, high end EX headphones, and a 2-inch QVGA screen. The lower end a610 has a 1.8-inch screen, cheaper headphones, a fluffier case, and is about $20 cheaper per 2,4, and 8GB model. (Blame the marketers for the split-decision.) Here are some impressions: •The screen is sharp, as to be expected from the company •The UIs are extremely Sony Ericsson like, as you can see from the photos •Interesting but useless shuffle feature can play back all the music from a given year. •The all metal build quality of the a810 is far better than the a610. Not sure why anyone wouldn't spend the extra cheddar on the a810. •The touch buttons on the a610's case aren't really touch sensitive. They depress like any other. •You would mostly buy these if you'd assume that the new iPod nano doesn't have video, and are happy with loading your files using Windows Media Player.
SONY UNVEILS FIRST U.S. WALKMAN VIDEO PLAYERS
New Models Support an Open Standard
SAN DIEGO, Aug. 30, 2007 - Sony today took the wraps off two new WalkmanÂ® players that not only support audio - but for the first time in the United States - video.
The new NWZ-A810 and NWZ-S610 series of Walkman digital music players will support an open platform, providing more choices for downloading and managing music and video collections online.
"Our Walkman products offer great resolution, a bright screen, high-quality sound and a long battery life," said Brennan Mullin, vice president for audio products in the Digital Imaging and Audio Division at Sony Electronics. "We are providing our customers the choice to use multiple music sources."
The devices have a standard user interface that makes it easy to enjoy songs, videos or pictures. For crystal-clear image quality, the video players have a large Quarter Video Graphics Array (QVGA) LCD screen that displays video at 30 frames per second. QVGA is a display mode for small screens in which the resolution is 320 pixels vertically by 240 pixels horizontally.
The battery life allows up to eight hours of video playback for the NWZ-A810 series and nine-and-a-half hours for the NWZ-S610 series. The battery also provides up to 33 hours of music playback for both series.
The players support security-enhanced Windows Media Audio (WMA), as well as non-secure AAC and MP3 music formats, plus JPEG files for photos, in addition to the AVC (H.264/AVC) Baseline Profile and MPEG-4 video codecs.
Users can download movie trailers, music videos, podcasts and video clips from the Internet and use readily-available shareware to convert the clips for use with the Walkman video players. Sony Pictures Entertainment has also provided video content for both of the new players, which is hosted at www.sonystyle.com/walkman.
Music and Videos in Your Pocket
The top-of-the-line Walkman video players (NWZ-A810 series) have a 2-inch QVGA (320 by 240 pixels) LCD screen (measured diagonally). This series of players comes with higher quality Sony ear-buds (model MDR-EX082).
Designed with a younger demographic in mind, the NWZ-S610 series has a 1.8-inch QVGA (320 by 240 pixels) LCD screen (measured diagonally) and includes an FM tuner with 30 presets that make it convenient to listen to the radio on the go.
The Walkman video players store up to 1,850 songs on the 8GB models, 925 songs on the 4GB models, and 440 songs on the 2GB models, for songs an average of four minutes in length at 128kbps in the MP3 format.
Digital Music 101
For those who just want music sans video, Sony is also introducing the NWZ-B100 series. These audio players include USB direct connect, a three-line color LCD display and an FM tuner. They feature up to 12 hours of battery life.
With FM recording capability, it is easy to capture and play back radio programs. The NWZ-B100 series also has a voice recorder function with a built-in microphone for taking notes or recording sing-alongs to favorite tunes.
In addition to supporting easy transfer of non-DRM content via drag and drop, this dedicated audio model will also support most subscription services. The players store up to 485 songs on the 2GB and 235 songs on the 1GB, for songs an average of four minutes in length at 128kbps in the MP3 format.
Sony's Open Digital Music Environment
All of the new players are compatible with security-enhanced Windows Media Audio and support most subscription music services. The new players are also among the first to be Certified for Windows Vista, meaning they have passed a series of compatibility tests including PlaysForSure verification.
"With this initiative, Sony is debuting an important option for digital media players as it opens new doors for a rich digital experience," said Dave Wascha, director of Windows Client Product Management at Microsoft Corp. "I believe consumers will be pleased that the new Walkman products carry the Certified for Windows logo and that they will take advantage of the new technologies available in this Windows platform. Those who purchase this Walkman player can rest easy knowing that the product has met explicit standards of reliability and quality."
To help manage digital music libraries, the new Sony Walkman video players come with Microsoft Windows Media Player 11. This familiar interface makes transferring music very intuitive. Sony offers a range of accessories (sold separately), including a BluetoothÂ® audio transmitter and peripherals that allow consumers to wirelessly release their music on the move.
With these new Walkman players, Sony has widened its digital music environment to support Windows Media technology. This gives customers greater flexibility in their music software approach. As a result, Sony will be phasing out the CONNECTâ„¢ Music Services based on Sony's ATRAC audio format in North America and Europe. Specific timing will vary by region depending on market demand, but will not be before March 2008. The CONNECT e-book service for the Reader will not be affected.
Pricing and Availability
The NWZ-A810 series of Walkman video music players come in three different capacities and five colors:
* The NWZ-A815 player has a total capacity of 2GB; comes in white, pink, black, blue and silver; and will cost about $140. * The NWZ-A816 player has a total capacity of 4GB; comes in white, pink, black and silver; and will cost about $180. * The NWZ-A818 player has a total capacity of 8GB, comes in black and silver, and will cost about $230.
The NWZ-S610 series of Walkman music players come in three different capacities and four colors:
* The NWZ-S615F player has a total capacity of 2GB; comes in black, pink, red and silver; and costs about $120. * The NWZ-S616F player has a total capacity of 4GB; comes in black, pink, red and silver; and costs about $160. * The NWZ-S618F player has a total capacity of 8GB, comes in black, and costs about $210.
The NWZ-B100 series of Walkman music players come in two different capacities and colors:
* The NWZ-B103F player has a total capacity of 1GB, comes in black, and costs about $60. * The NWZ-B105F player has a total capacity of 2GB, comes in black and white, and costs about $80.
Presales have begun for the new Walkman models online at www.sonystyle.com/walkman and at Sony Style stores. The players will be available in September across the country at military base exchanges and at authorized dealers nationwide. The silver players will be sold exclusively at Sony Style retail stores and the online website.