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Sony has truly created something great in this player, as in my opinion it blows the basic ipod out the water. Especially as these can now be bought for less than £130.
I have always disliked ipods for many reasons (mostly unfounded!), and was frustrated that despite the ipods flaws (low battery life, flimsy and poor screen), no other company had seemed to really come up with anything that could compete with it. That is until this lil' gadget was built.
Turning it on, the user is greeted by the 'home' menu, containing nine icons referring to different aspects of the player.
Most of the time, I rarely venture from the middle, default icon; music library! Most of the time I just select albums/songs etc as I feel I want to listen to them. The shuffle feature is always handy when using it as a jukebox, as the player just plays the entire library at random... Great for reminding you of long lost tracks!
There are a number of other play options, such as repeat one track, 'time machine' shuffle (plays songs released in a certain year), artist link search (searches for artists of the same genre as the current track), and several others.
The music library is easy to navigate, because the user can scroll left to right to move through the alphabet in chunks (e.g. A - G, H - N etc) as well as up and down to select what the user wants to play. It can be viewed categorised into play lists, all songs, albums, artists, genre, (star) rating, release date, recent transfers. I find the most useful way is simply viewing according to artist.
There is also the ability to create play lists, allowing the user to select certain songs/artists/genres to be selected at the touch of the button. My Dad uses this feature a lot, as he creates them so he can listen to certain genres for certain times of day or the mood he feels!
Most of the above relies on the fact that the information about each track is correct and complete. It's just a warning really to make sure you check that each one is if these features are important to you!
The player has a sufficient number of options to allow the user to set it up as they wish. The equalizer (called 'sound' in the menu) is impressive, as it really enhances the type of music being listened to. I tend to leave it on 'jazz' as it complements a lot of types of music. Having the option to choose the output (headphones or line out) is useful, as it really makes a difference to the sound quality in both circumstances.
Despite the positive praise for this player (and there is lots of it), I have to say that I have had some problems. Firstly, the Connect player software that is supplied with the player it's absolutely dire. It is a good idea, but there is obviously a fundamental flaw in the design somewhere, as it is completely unstable. However, there is a solution to this, in the form of a program called Sonic Stage, supplied on the Sony website. I cannot recommend this program enough, as it is fantastic. Its simple to use, very fast and efficient.
The unit has also crashed several times, but it's not too much bother as long as you have something small and pointy to jab the reset button with. Despite this flaw, it would seem this is nothing compared to the amount of problems my friends have had with their ipods.
I have to admit that the ipod, and other hard disk players do seem to be quicker in general functioning compared to this player. When selecting songs or play options, there is sometimes a little pause, maybe 3-4 seconds before anything happens, which can be a little frustrating, but is a minor glitch. The fact that there is no scroll wheel like the ipod or Creative Zen means that 'interacting' with this unit is sometimes a little more fiddly compared to others. Again, this is a very minor problem.
Upon reflection, this is a fantastic mp3 player, and I have a lot of good things to say about it! However, I would not recommend you buy this product at full price and new. The only reason for this is that there are other great products on the market, such as the Creative Zen Vision, which plays videos as well as audio files. The 30 GB version is only around £20 more than this Sony, and would be my choice if I were to buy another mp3 player.