A few weeks ago we had a quick preview of the new Walkman A845 from Sony – the main selling point of which was its incredibly thin form which at 7.2mm makes it the thinnest Sony Walkman yet – and now having had time to give it a thorough ‘going over’ were back to see whether or not it lives up to expectations.
Perhaps the most obvious thing to look at first with the Sony Walkman A845 is exactly that: how it looks. Whilst I have to say that I found the design a little bit off putting to start with (the screen seemed a little too big which in turn made the silver bottom look a little odd) but as with so many things it doesn’t take long to grow on you – although once you’ve noticed it you won’t forget the fact that the buttons look oddly like Mickey mouse!
Moving onto the rest of the device and the quality does continue: whilst the back is worrying proficient at picking up scratches (and even better at getting fingerprints) it likewise looks stylish and exactly what you would expect from a Walkman.
My only real complaint would be with the selection buttons which with the exception of the slight ‘bump’ on the play button sit flush to the player. Nice as this is it does make it pretty hard to use blind (such as when it’s in your pocket) as it’s not all that easy to tell the difference between the different buttons or even the shiny border – but that is really a minor qualm and is only a mild annoyance if that!
Moving into the player and Sony have done a pretty good job: the main menu is well laid out, almost everything is sensibly ordered and therefore it is very easy to navigate around, and you can even change the background to any of your pictures/photos which is a nice feature. The one thing I would criticise is the Noise Cancelling (NC) menu which irritatingly only includes the ability to turn it on and off, and the ability to change the Modes and not the options to change the NC environment or the NC level which are frequently used and sit hidden away in the settings menu.
In fact despite the fact that the player is thin enough to ‘glide’ into your pocket, and the screen is big enough to just about watch movies (I’ll come back to this) the feature that impressed me the most was definitely the noise cancelling which promises to cut out 98% of ambient (i.e. background) noise.
There are of course some flaws – I’ve already mentioned the weird placement of settings – but the system has an annoying habit of going silent every time you go through a pothole and as there are quite a few of them around at the moment you either had to have the NC turned off, or on a very low setting. But that is really a small side-note as in every other situation it works brilliantly, especially on planes where you really learn to appreciate the silence it offers, and the battery will still just about keep going with it running for a whole day which assuming you remember to recharge it is perfect!
Whilst we’re on that topic one of the things that disappointed me about the A845 was its lack of any mains charger meaning that the only way to charge it is via USB. Now this is far from tragic as most people have access to one of these every day, but it does mean that unless you wish to leave your PC/Laptop on you cannot charge it overnight which is of course the most convenient. Yes you could purchase a mains adapter (either a direct one or a USB-mains adapter) but I still find it a little annoying that you have to go out of your way do be able to do a really basic thing.
But back onto the positives, and one thing that I said I would look at is the screen which again excels. It is a 2.8” OLED screen and the quality really comes through which really does offer the ‘superb colours, high contrast ratio, wide viewing angle and super-fast response time’ that Sony claim it has, which means that if you don’t mind looking at a relatively small screen then it’s great for watching movies and the like; although of course you can output it to a TV using an optional (and probably relatively expensive) AV cable which will output at 720×480 at a respectable 30fps.
Finally we have the sound quality which is a crucial factor if sound is the main purpose of a device, and as the host of technologies that the A845 boasts suggests the player does a pretty good job. Admittedly I’m not sure I could single out any of the ‘Clear Audio’ technologies, but I can definitely tell you that the results of the ‘Clear Bass’, ‘Clear Stereo’ and DSEE are not to be sniffed at.
So is the Sony Walkman A845 really a great MP3 player? I would say that it was – whilst it may not be world beating in any particular aspect, or anywhere near perfect, it does exactly what you need it to and does it very well. You can expect to be able to use it easily, to get great sounding music and the occasional little ‘flair’ (such as being able to scroll through the album covers, or being able to change the background) and at the end of the day that is really all you need. Oh, and it’s guaranteed to fit into your pocket however tight your jeans!