For gym rats, the NW-S200 includes an FM tuner, which is particularly handy for tuning in to your workout facility's TVs. And a couple of unique features--both dependent on the G-Sensor--round out the package. The first is a function that switches the player between standard and shuffle playback modes if you shake it three times with the LCD facing up. This is very cool in person--you feel like you're actually shaking the songs up. The second are the onboard "running" and "walking" playlists that you designate based on the playlists you have already created. If you're strolling along with your player, the "walking" playlist comes on, and when you speed up, the "running" one starts. This is a neat feature we'd love to see expanded upon in future fitness-friendly MP3 players.
Unsurprisingly, the NW-S200's audio quality is top-notch, though I found it difficult to enjoy through the uncomfortably hard plastic earbuds that came with the player. The ear-wrap design is a nice touch, but the ear loops aren't adjustable, so they won't fit all users (notably those with small ears). But when I swapped in my Shure E4c test 'phones, I was rewarded with rich, clear audio that offered plenty of bass and an ear-splitting max volume. Rated battery life is similarly impressive at 18 hours. Unfortunately, CNET Labs' tests proved that not all Sony MP3 players can outlast the Energizer Bunny; we got only about 14 hours of playback.
Finally, I must point out that Sony is taking a step in the right direction by adding AAC and WMA support to its latest MP3 players, and that includes the NW-E000. Of course, it also plays MP3 and both protected and unprotected ATRAC files (WMA and AAC must be unprotected). This is a surprisingly open attitude from the company that once didn't even directly support MP3 playback. However, SonicStage rather sullies the whole experience. And not to sound like a broken record, but I'm just going to quote my Sony NW-E000 review here: "Unfortunately, Sony rather takes the shine off [the player] by requiring that you use SonicStage to transfer tunes to the device. This software is simply awful--I found myself hating it all over again in the few minutes it took get some tunes on the NW-E000. It's poorly laid out and does not organize music in an intuitive fashion. For me, this is a deal breaker. But for those who are accustomed to the SonicStage/Connect universe, the NW-E000 should make the cut." The same applies the NW-S200; still, the handy fitness-friendly features and the innovative uses of the G-Sensor technology make it a tempting option.
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