Pros The build quality is perfect even if the aluminum gets scratched after years of use (I have had mine for almost 4 years) it still is working perfectly. Features are plentiful, battery efficiency is very long and memory is large and expandable.
Cons hard to use with an external mic because button and screen is in front making it hard to watch levels and press buttons. Size can be a problem. Phono jacks can be a problem but makes things even more compact.
Summary This product is amazing. Given the amazing pedigree of their past recorders, Sony has made the obvious next step in their recording line by offering a solid state high-res digital recorder. I recently completed a soundwalk project in Shanghai, China where I hand-held the recorder using the optional stand and it performes beautifully, given its age and how much I have used it over the years in many different locations with varied climates. My unit is 4 years old.
I use it as my main recorder in my work which is documentary, film, foley, and creative projects. The sound, quality, and features are very competitive and are in harmony with each other rather than just having the smallest box with the most features. The user interface is very basic, intuitive, and foolproof. The battery lasts amazingly for way over 8 hours (these are for rechargable- it lasts even longer when using disposable batteries) and the built-in memory is perfect for those long 8+ hour overnight recordings. Add more memory for double the time and swap them out for continuous recording. This machine is very reliable in the field and is one recorder that one should never be without.
My only complaint is that the buttons and screen are on the front of the machine making it hard to use with an external mic. I do sound recordings for documentaries and films and I need to use this with a Sound Devices 302 mixer in order to control levels easily. I also wish I had the double knob control like in the D1. But otherwise, this machine is great. The phono plugs might be a but 'unprofessional' but the high-quality connectors ensure the best connection between the unit and your cable.
Would I buy it again? Yes! But I don't really know why I would need to. Know that if you do buy this machine, you are in store for a long and happy relationship.
Pros Practicality, build, simplicity plus exemplary audio
Cons Size not the best for "stealth" recording. Charges for extra features included with other recorders. Doesn't record MP3 or accept extra large XLF plugs.
Summary At first I was taken by the Zoom H4, then the H2. But both are for hobbyists who want to devote hours to recording--just look at the promotional literature that comes with the H4n. Maybe for dedicated young techies. But for someone who wants a top quality, rugged, ultra user-friendly machine second to none in sound quality and likely to be used more often for that reason, the Sony is the answer. Zoom is one of those "the possibilities are limitless" gadgets. I want a quick, solvable, ready machine to get the job done. Forget the small machines and digital menus--the Sony is the most "dedicated machine in the bunch. I'd look at the Marantz and maybe the Edirol RD-9, but Sony wins my vote of confidence. I'm a musician, a music lover and not a techno-freak, and it looks like Sony has me in mind more than do any of the other companies.
Pros Amazing sound, lots of buttons
Cons input level's inability to be locked by the hold switch, size
Summary I love this thing. In the right conditions you will produce fantastic recordings. My main beef with it is that the input is set by an input dial, which means that you can't just flip the hold switch, throw it into your pocket and forget about it during a live concert. I know the D50 isn't alone in that respect, but it's just unfortunate because the sound is so damn good. I guess a piece of electrical tape will do, but my R-09 is still my live show recorder of choice. But the D50's quality is that good that I still kept it just to record myself.
Pros Overall Design, Build Quality and Sound Qualtiy
Cons Memory Stick Only
Summary I think you covered a lot about the D50 that I noted as well, but you've missed several points that have been covered more extensively by other magazines and websites. One of the bummers I found that was discussed in FutureMusic's D50 review ( http://www.futuremusic.com/news/testdrive/sony_pcm-d50_review.html ) is the fact that Sony forces you to use their proprietary Memory Stick format, which is significantly more expensive than SD cards. In addtion you found that the 2GB file limit was a negative whereas I never had any trouble with that ceiling since you can just hit the Divide button to "refresh" your file size.