"Compromised yes, but still a great value for the SQ"3.0 starson by make_or_break
Pros: Superb sound quality that actually puts my new X-series to shame. Familiar, easy-to-use Sony interface. Built-in speakers (on back). Voice recording is nice.
Cons: No on-the-fly playlist generation (so what else is new with Sony?). Cheapish plastic feel, 'Mickey'-look control placement takes some getting used to. Awful video feeding experience, compromises with decontenting old features for iffy new ones.
Summary: I usually buy these things for their music performance, so that's typically my personal slant on things. And in this regard my wife's S545 doesn't disappoint. Music sounds truly fantastic on this thing, granted it's played through aftermarket cans (Senn PX-100, Senn IE-8 IEMs). IMO, from a audio fidelity standpoint this new player does music better than my X1061, at least before I attempt to tweak things around on the more expensive Walkman.
Sonically, this device is more than impressive; at least Sony has that part nailed. But functionally the S545 can't help but feel knee-capped. Like all other Sony PMPs present and past, getting video to the player is a real chore that seems hardly worth it given the intense hassle. Voice recording is a nice add, but the manner in which the interface works and allows you to actually LISTEN to said recordings is a sadistic joke; the S has to go off and basically reboot itself to 'rebuild' the audio library (the resultant recordings are MP3 files that apparently the S won't understand until said library is recompiled). The chassis materials are definitely a step down from what I've been accustomed to from Sony, though in truth I never had the original first-gen S-series for and actual generation-to-generation comparison. And the player IS big for the capacity, thicker than my old A829 Walkman from a couple of years ago; the price paid for going to a plastic housing, I suppose.
But the price is hard to beat; we picked this one up at our local Sony Style store at the start of this past Labor Day weekend when there was a 20% off promotion going on with ALL of their MP3/PMP devices. A shade over $100 was definitely a sweet price for this sort of sonic nirvana, but even at the regular retail price the S545 is something of a bargain. You just need to lower your expectations on pretty much everything else you'd come to look for in a PMP device.
Flawed for sure, but still good enough to enjoy and be content with.