Sony’s new W202 Walkman is one step closer to the MP3 players of science fiction “coolness”. There’s not a wire in sight, and the entire player consists of two small modules over each ear, connected by a cord that swings around behind your head. It’s a neat set-up, and a neat premise, and possibly the perfect MP3 player for those with an active lifestyle.
Listen to an audio review of the walkman
The good stuff
The W202 is surprisingly light, at just 35g, and never feels heavy on the ear, even after hours of continuous use. The battery life, around 11 hours, is generous for its size and a quick 3-minute charge (through a USB cradle, pictured above) gives a 90-minute boost. Strapping it tight, I put it through a reasonably thorough, if unconventional, stress test. Running up and down staircases with reckless abandon, intentionally tripping on sidewalks, riding pillion on a motorcycle through a route full of twists and turns—the W202 clung to my ears quite faithfully, never once loosening or skipping a beat.
The bundled Content Transfer software is minimalist and simple, and the device supports all major, mainstream formats. The jog dial is a competent method of scrolling through your music, though it sometimes seems to take one-too-many turns to register. But the best thing about this player is the sound. Sony has rather benevolently provided three different-size earplugs so everyone gets a perfect fit, and the in-ear EX headphones are wonderful. Bass performance is rock solid, and sound quality is excellent.
Sony is touting the W202’s “Zappin” function as a “new way to find music”. In theory, you press a button and it attempts to recognize the most memorable parts of a song (the chorus, the refrain) and plays these excerpts one after the other to quickly browse through music. It’s all memorably science fiction, even featuring a computer voice that goes “Zapping In” when you activate it. In practice, it felt a bit random: While it could handle basic rock music, it’s stumped if you throw in an off-kilter Bollywood song or a Western classical piece.
Now, wire-free and convenient it may be, but the W202, let’s be frank, looks like two oversized Bluetooth dongles joined by a wire, and wearing it in public will make you look like one of the Cybermen from Doctor Who.
This, of course, will not matter if it’s intended for indoor use, or at the gym (where it’s perfect), but taking it outdoors is another story. The most favourable adjective we’ve heard describing the thing is “funky”, which at best is a synonym for “interesting” and at worst a polite way of calling it “weird”.
The W202 is available in five colours—pink, white, black, lime green and purple—and retails at Rs4,990 for the 2GB variant. This roughly puts it in the same price bracket as the 4GB iPod shuffle, and at a higher price point than Creative’s Zen Stone and Sandisk’s Sansa. So, at half the capacity of the Shuffle, and missing FM support, which the Stone and the Sansa have, does the W202 Walkman walk the talk?
The answer is a hesitant yes. The sound quality is miles above what you would get with the other players, and the wire-free design is extremely convenient on the move. For those who work the gym regularly, or want a hassle-free MP3 player that doesn’t tie itself into a double-fisherman’s knot in your pocket: The W202 is recommended. Just wear a helmet over it or something.