"Top Quality Product: superb music quality and great OS"4.5 starson by semicrazyguy
Pros: Manual EQ and sound enhancements plus the included headphones make the audio quality top notch. It turns on nearly instantly and has lots of listening options with playlist support, SenseMe, time machine shuffle, and an FM radio
Cons: SenseMe doesn't work perfectly, it's a little pricey, noise canceling isn't that great, included software isn't that helpful. Battery life doesn't seem to be quite as great as claimed.
Summary: I bought this to replace a Sansa that had an unfortunate encounter with a washing machine. I chose not to go with Sansa again because the player lagged when changing songs, etc, and had limited playback options.After six months of fairly heavy use, the wires on the earbuds have cracked. I've doctored it up with electrical tape for now, but it is still extremely disappointing.
I took a hard look at the 4G nano and the touch, but the nano didn't have the features I was after (FM radio/custom EQ) and the touch offers way more features without improving the sound quality and costs ~$50 more (as of right now at least).
1. Externals: Player is thin!! It fits really nicely in my pocket and the hold switch and dedicated volume controls are really nice. The screen is brilliant, although it has picked up some minor scratches in a few weeks of riding in my pocket. So if that's important to you you should definitely get a case. The headphones have incredible sound, but don't stay in my ears well, so they are NOT for exercising, but they're great for studying/riding the bus. They also make chewing extraordinarily loud and I notice my footsteps while walking. Contrary to popular opinion, they DO plug into a normal socket, but they don't stay in very well. For a quick youtube vid they'll work in a pinch. I am concerned that they will wear out more rapidly than I'd like, but they are a fairly robust design.
One thing I found odd is that the (proprietary, grr) usb cable attaches itself firmly to the player, but then the only way to get it out is to rip it out. I felt like there should have been a button. We'll see if it wears out in the next year.
2. Loading files: The included software is very lightweight and works decently for drag and drop from folders or from iTunes, but I went to Windows Media Player so that I could get playlists as well. An annoyance was that I use iTunes primarly for music playback, but I found that I can drag songs from an iTunes playlist into a new playlist in WMP, so that works okay now that I've figured it out. I did have to fix all of the artist names that had different capitalizations because the player sees them as different artists (Ace of Base vs. Ace Of Base for example). I also found that the Sony software and WMP will copy the same song to the player without noticing that it's already there.
I found a decent freeware video converter (Pazera Video to IPod converter) that will convert a 2 hour movie in less than an hour and it works wonderfully, although the player's screen is quite small for movies, I haven't used this feature yet, but I may.
3. Operating System/Features: are amazing. SenseMe analyzes each song in your library and sorts them into channels like Lounge, Classical, Extreme, and so on. There's even a Morning channel in the morning that switches to Daytime and then a Night channel as the day goes on. It isn't perfect, I have a couple acappella songs that made it into the Electronica channel, but I enjoy the ability to do a controlled random mode. Time Machine shuffle demands that your music have a year associated with it, but I enjoy it as another way to randomize the tunes. The FM radio will automatically scan for stations and assign a preset to each one, so you can change from your music to a radio station to another radio station really rapidly. Video playback is also very smooth. Pause the video to fast fastforward, double tap while playing to slow fastforward, and so on. Of the sound enhancements, The EQ is the only one that I've found to be really practical, although the others are fun to play around with, for sure. Podcast support isn't anything to write home about, but at least it keeps them in a different folder.
4. Noise Canceliing: It doesn't really deserve it's own number. If I'd known about it, I probably would have saved $30 and got the NWZ-S638F, which is the exact same thing minus noise canceling. Although so far the only color you can get it in is "red" (cough-pink-cough). However, since I have it, it does make constant sounds much quieter. If you fly a lot (or ride a car/bus a lot) this could be really handy. It doesn't do much against voices or any complex, high frequency sounds.
All in all I am really happy with this player. I wish it was cheaper, and I wish I didn't have minor scratches on the screen, but I also wish I was making twice as much $$ as I am now.
Updated on Feb 28, 2009