With increasing hard drive sizes, the arrival of touchscreen technology and ever more features and falling prices, it's easy to forget the more humble end of the personal digital music player market. However, Sony's NWD-B105 proves there are still some good value and strongly featured products at the lower price points. At this …
I like the sound of that, and at that price I'd have two! One question, though - is this a true USB mass storage device (could it be used like a USB flash drive), or does it have some software built into the player that does the job?
Whatver the answer, I'm just glad Sony are beginning to wake up, and hope that future players go with this option.
Sounds like a decent machine
Given that Sony invented the premise of the portable music player it has been surprising that it's took them so long to start producing good MP3 players. It has often been the software that lets them down so it's good to see that SonicStage is no longer a requirement. If I had a criticism it would be for the built in rechargeable battery. I would always contest that a smaller player like this is going to be used relatively infrequently where the sheer inconvenience of rechargeable batteries is absolutely maddening. Needing to charge them up makes the administration of them very tedious - the device is always flat when you need it and not least the fact the changer is often bigger than the device. It's good to see though that Sony is exploiting all sectors of the market for MP3 players and not just accepting defeat in the face of Apple. I have always thought it's the convenience of iTunes is what makes iPod sell - if iTunes is ever opened up to sync with any USB mass storage device, players like this Sony one will steal customers from Apple.
What's happened to Sony?
Wow. Sony have finally realised the pretty gadgets laughingly called mp3 players (actually atrac players) are utterly pointless for anyone using Linux. Or OSX. Or no longer trusts Sony's software offerings. Looks like a groovy device. I might have to get one as a reward to Sony for finally seeing the light! Probably the F model with FM radio.
What with the RDR-HXDx70 series of recorders, it appears that Sony are waking up to producing stuff people want. Hurrah!
(Long time Sony fan but not tempted by their handiwork for many years. Poor design, poor build. That, and, along with everyone else on the planet, the unforgivable bandwagon jumping of lets not give anyone any choice even if they already have stuff in black, and love black, and hate anything not black, and go and paint everything that's lovely and wonderful that vile and hideous colour, that custard of Satan's loins, the wretched pustule encrusted silver. Grrr.)
Is it fair to assume that this player uses an autorun feature to run a proprietary app from the device itself tomanage music transfers?
This is suggested but not spelled-out in this review and Sony's website which claims this player is compatible only with some Micro$oft operating systems.
Can it do standard (and therefore globally useful) USB mass storage duties or is it effectively useless to someone like me who does not use Windows exclusively?
This sort of vital detail is missing from almost every review on USB devices I read (and all too often missing from manufacturers' and retailers' website information too).
Finally mp3 makers are starting to 'get it'...
...and I never thought it would be Sony!
I've been winging for years about mp3 makers forcing you to use their proprietary software (Apple + Sony being the worst culprits) to transfer and organise tracks in the way they want rarther than the way you want.
All I want is to for the player to appear as a normal external drive and to allow you to copy across any folder structure you chose. This is exactly what my car mp3 player (Denison) does and its brilliant, you can use what ever sync software and folder structure you choose because it just appears as a normal windows drive. Sadly Denison never really had the marketting omph to make people realise this was the way forward and are now reduced to peddling Ipod connectors (sigh...).
I live in hope that one day someone will make a portable player that is as good as the Denison car player was. If this new Sony only had 30G or more of memory then I'd be first in the queue!
Is there a volume balance adjustment available? If a user has hearing loss in one ear, listening is much less a pleasure w/o this feature. Almost as critical is that the setting be remembered after the unit is powered off and back on.
Having dealt with some of the latest types of USB drives, i would be very suspicious about this new Sony product.
Many of the new drives come with pre-installed software on hidden partitions, which seem install a rootkit on every machine they are connected to.
(Hint: as quoted from Anon Vulture above "compatible only with some Micro$oft operating systems")
Given Sony's track record in this area, i think i would want to be sure of the facts BEFORE i bought one.
P.S. Just an observation, but i'm spending more and more time wrestling back control of machines which have been "infected" by plug and play hardware. Anyone else agree ???
"A cutesy little foldery icon appears. awww!"
Who wrote that review? a high quality IT journalist, or your average myspace user? if we have to assume microsoft in all of these revies, they could at least talk at a windows level about explorer extenions, removable devices etc...
An additional benefit..
..For mass USB storage compatable MP3 players is that I can plug them into the USB socket on my car stereo and so long as they actr as USB mass storage I can play the tracks through my car stereo.
This is a more and more common feature of head-units for cars but relies on a sensible standard.
Granted, I use a 180GB USB hard-drive for purpose but it would be nice if visitors to my caar coupld plug in their walkman directly rather than having to fall back on a headphone output connector.
Reading some of the above comments regarding software bundled with the player and re-reading the article I popped over to the Sony site and downloaded the manual.
Well, according to the manual it really does appear to do what it says on the tin: it mounts as a USB Mass Storage Device on your favourite OS. There is software bundled with the player called "AutoTransfer", and, as the article points out, it appears to essentially sync a designated music folder on your PC with the player. I assume the software is Windows only. The manual implies you can delete this software and accompanying PDF user manual and get a bit more space on the device.
Though ominously on the last page the manual then says that the only supported OSs are 2k, XP and Vista and if you want anything else you can go fuck yourself (or words to that effect.)
I'll contact Sony to confirm if it really is a USB Mass Storage Device, that they made a mistake and it will in actual fact support Linux...
Not thoroughly impressed...
About 3 years ago I purchased a 512MB 'generic' MP3 player with all of these features except for the rechargeable battery. The prices on flash have come down & sizes have gone up, so I'd expect the same price to hold now for 2GB size. The Sony may be a better quality unit than my el-cheapo, but the price I paid was less than half. And it had all of these features including an eq, and some features that I'll never use, like a phone directory. It featured USB 2.0, and the only limitation was the FAT file system it used--If I had too many songs in one directory, I'd have to split them into two or more folders. It had a pleasing EL backlight and decent sound quality. Lacking a flash drive at the time, I frequently used it for this purpose too. It's still in a drawer somewhere and I'm sure it works fine despite the punishment I gave it. For the price of this, you can get a device with a much bigger screen and more features. So while I'm sure this is a neat little player, I think Sony can do better, at least price-wise.
"Playback times are listed as 12 hours for 128Kbps MP3 tracks and nine hours for 128Kbps WMA songs, which we found to be about right."
so.... wma uses 25% more processing power to decrypt??? Is it the algorithm on the Sony player, or is wma that computationally intensive? Inquiring minds want to know.
yes, windows software shrinks your willy. Linux gives you 25% (or more) prowess power. That's a fact.
Yes, it's the computational power required
"so.... wma uses 25% more processing power to decrypt??? Is it the algorithm on the Sony player, or is wma that computationally intensive?"
Probably the latter. This is why Sony stuck with ATRAC and SonicStage for as long as they did. The ATRAC codec was designed from the start to be for mobile (MiniDisc), devices and thus is designed so as not to require much processing power on decoding. MP3 and WMA were not designed as such. Hence in the past, a lot of Sony devices, whilst requiring SonicStage to convert your MP3 files, would have considerably superior playing times than other MP3 players. Off the top of my head, I wouldn't be surprosed if this device could play for 20+ hours of ATRAC - if it supported it.
Yes, it's more intensive than mp3. All the players report that drop.
Mass Storage Devices
I've found that a lot of the "low end, unheard-of brand" MP3 players are just bog-standard USB Mass Storage Devices. I guess that makes it so much easier for the manufacturers -- someone's bound to have a single-chip solution with DSP and Flash controller by now. It's when you get into premium brands who think they can create new standards rather than following established ones that you run into problems.
For the penguin-shaggers: Simple USB memory devices and HDDs can even be reformatted as ext2, allowing you to keep file ownership and permissions. This *doesn't* work with MP3 players, though, at least if you want to play MP3s on them!
Not buying because it's Sony
To be honest, I'm very attracted to it for it's small size and design.
I don't even own a MP3 player nor do I NEED ONE at all, but I really found this one interesting.
However just because it's from Sony I won't be buying it.
I don't like being taken for the fool I am not.
PS3 price, blu-ray DVDs shipped with tons of DRM and not even being readable, rootkits on USB keys...
Sony, contemplate a lost sale (several actually, word of mouth) just because you're too deep in DRM hell to care about the CUSTOMER.
PS: my downgraded PSP works fine though, thank you.