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Sony NWZS-544B

Sony's phone is good option if you need a Walkman and a phone.

By: Joseph

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The real question is this – do you need a cheap and gimmicky camera or are you (like me) in it for the music alone? There will be a lot of comparisons over the course of the review but for brevity’s sake let’s just say this – if you don’t need/want the stupid and useless (video) camera then you’re way better off savin’ a few bucks and getting this model over the trendy nano upgrade. So let’s compare.

FM radio recording vs. FM PVR
This writer LOVES having an FM radio feature available. Let’s face it – there’s almost always something worth listening to on the FM dial and if you find yourself bored with your current mp3 playlist as you’re out and about then you’ll really find this handy. But there’s more! Sony has included an FM Record feature that allows you to record live audio for later use. By way of comparison the new nano buffers 15 minutes of live radio as it’s playing which allows the user to pause, rewind up to 15 minutes and then fast forward to catch up with the current broadcast. With the nano you can also 'tag' whatever songs you like as you're listening to them on the air and then purchase these songs legitimately from the iTunes store the next time you plug into an online connection.  I’m not saying one’s really better than the other but if you don’t have the discretionary income to fork over for downloads and/or you’re old enough to remember audio tapes and listening to the radio with your finger on the PAUSE button then the Sony product takes this round. You can also look at this FM Record feature as a nifty wireless way of archiving music on the fly if someone nearby has access to an FM transmitter – but that’s a whole other article for a different day.

Video Playback
As the proud owner of an old-school 2GB nano I’ve gotta say that watching a TV show on a screen the size of a postage stamp has never intrigued me. But the good folks at Sony really upped the ante here with a larger than usual 2.4 inch screen that sits nicely in the centre of the unit and also adheres to the widescreen or 16:9 aesthetic that we’ve all grown accustomed to in the LCD age. In all fairness the new nano has a 2.2 inch screen as well so I guess we’re talking apples and oranges on this one.

Sound
This one’s a pretty even contest as well but that’s really saying something as the entire iPod series is revered (and rightfully so) for just how damn good they sound (and that’s all the way up and down the line from the shuffle to the iPod touch models). The NWZS-544B sounds incredible – probably more so because I auditioned it with a $100 pair of Audio-Technica headphones. As with the entire iPod line the first thing you wanna do when you get this device is ditch the included earbuds for something better (but that’s probably fairly common knowledge by now).

The Bottom Line
Long live the Walkman! Hats off to Sony for finding a way to modify their products to fit the times and for also offering a viable and affordable alternative for those of us who may for some reason be unable/unwilling to tow the Apple party line – cheers!

Date published: 26-Sep-2009

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