Sony NW-E003 Inverness

Like the Apple iPod Shuffle, Sony's new NW-E003 is the same size as a USB flash drive. If you want an MP3 player that you can pop into a shirt pocket without creating an unsightly bulge then this could be just the ticket.

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Sony NW-E003

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Like the Apple iPod Shuffle, Sony's new NW-E003 is the same size as a USB flash drive. If you want an MP3 player that you can pop into a shirt pocket without creating an unsightly bulge then this could be just the ticket. Despite its size, the NW-E003 has a crisp display that tells you what track is playing and it even has a little timeline to show you how much of the track is left. The battery gauge is a welcome addition, but you'll rarely find yourself running on empty - the Sony was able to play for more than 4 hours after just a few minutes of charging via USB. A full charge lasts for more than 20 hours.

To get files onto the NW-E003, you have to install and use the supplied SonicStage software. If you already have a large collection of MP3s or WMAs, then you'll have to import them to SonicStage before you can copy them over, which is a lot more hassle than players that allow you to just drag-and-drop files using Windows Explorer. The upside is that SonicStage makes copying a CD onto the player a hassle-free process and integrates with Sony's own online music store. It also allows you to fit more music into the 1GB of memory, as you can encode music to Sony's space-saving ATRAC3 Plus format. If you really want to cram the player full of music then ATRAC3 produces better sounding and smaller files than MP3, but it's only worth using if you're encoding from an original CD. Converting MP3s or WMAs to any other compressed format always sounds horrid and should really be avoided.

Good sound, great looks and impressive battery life make the Sony very tempting, but it isn't cheap. Apple's iPod Shuffle 1GB is about £10 cheaper. Rather than buying the Shuffle, however, we'd save a few more pounds and buy an Apple iPod Nano. The Nano has twice the storage of the Shuffle and the Sony for less than twice the price. It's also good looking, easy to use and sounds great. Good as the E003 is, the Nano is better.

System Specifications

CONNECTION USB STORAGE 1GB FORMATS SUPPORTED MP3, WMA (NOT DRM), ATRAC3 SIZE 25 x 14 x 79mm

Verdict

Sony's NW-E003 wants to beat the iPod Shuffle at its own game, but is too expensive to be in the race. The Sony is tiny and has good battery life, but it isn't cheap enough to recommend.

Author: Sasha Muller

Computer Buyer Online