About 18 months ago I bought a 5th generation 80GB iPod. I think it was called “iPod Video” at the time but is now called “iPod Classic”. It was good for a while but then the battery started to slowly fade away to the point where the advertised 20 hours life (audio) was closer to four hours, or fifteen minutes in cold weather! The 6th (current) generation claims much improved battery life but you know what they say, once bitten……
Obsolescence was very obviously built-in to this iPod and I find that rather annoying. The idea I suppose is that you spend a fair old sum on an iPod and then chuck it away and buy a new one every two years because the battery is gash and the new ones are better looking.
Getting tired of charging the thing or getting cut off mid-book, I decided it was time to renew the mp3 player and started looking around for ideas. One might think the obvious solution was to buy a new model of the same, or a nano or something else from Apple but this would be to ignore the fact that the battery is not the only annoyance with the iPod.
Where to start, with the device itself. It weighs a ton and a half and is bulky enough that it doesn’t really fit anywhere properly. Put it in a pocket and you feel like someone slipped you a brick. The oh so exciting scroll wheel control hesitates way too much for my liking. Half the time it won’t switch off on the first attempt and keeps wanting to pause instead. The navigation is good, but not fantastic. The clunky hard disc drive (I’m assuming that’s what it has inside) compares very badly to the instant feel of a flash drive. Who needs 80GB anyway? I loaded 3052 songs many at lossless encoding (circa 40MB per track), 24 videos (TV & movies) and 2261 pictures and I still had 37GB free space! I probably never listened to half the music & never looked at most of the pictures. Fair enough, had I ever been accidentally stranded close to the centre of the Gobi desert with my iPod, I might have made a better fist of working my way through the contents but, sadly for Apple’s profit margin, that didn’t happen.
Then I might rattle on for a while about iTunes, one of the nastiest bits of software it has been my displeasure to tangle with of recent years. I get the feeling this was meant to work with Mac software and forcing it to work with a PC has just given it the hump. It sort of works but like the device it’s not quite there yet. It has regular arguments with Gracenotes meaning you might get the track names and you might not. Things that should be easy-peasy are complicated. They’ve caught the Microsoft disease recently of issuing a new version every month each time making it more cumbersome thanks to stuff you really don’t want like iPhone interface.
And so it was that I entered “best mp3 player apart from iPod” into Google and eventually found a few rave reviews of the Sony NWZ-739F Walkman. Really must give an award to the Sony gadget naming officer, NWZ-739F has a real ring to it!
I’ve only had it for a couple of days but I’m well impressed so far. Compared to the iPod it is teeny-weeny. Not much bigger than a credit card and weighs nothing. Put this in your pocket and you forget it’s there.
It is far faster in operation. It doesn’t need switching off because it just goes to sleep on its own. Despite not having the trendy scroll wheel of the iPod the navigation is actually far more intuitive and easier to deal with. It’s a flash drive unit, so no whirring and clanking while the hard drive wakes up. It does everything the iPod did only faster and better plus it has a radio. You had to buy another attachment to get radio from the iPod. It comes with a decent set of noise-cancelling earphones although I’ve not tested them in a noisy place yet. The screen is a little smaller although better quality than the iPod, brighter and clearer. I’ve tried watching one of my Schama “History of Britain” episodes and it is perfectly good enough. The sound is excellent and with more options to adjust it than the iPod. I’ve also tested via the Belkin FM transmitter that I use in the car and it does an equally fine job in there. The battery life comes in for special praise, billed as being 40 hours. I have yet to test that.
The software it comes with is equally impressive. There’s a thing called “Content Transfer” (more design name awards for Sony!) that opens up a small window when you plug the thing into the USB socket. You simply drag things and drop them in there and it transfers them to the device. Could not be any simpler. If you want more control or to rip CDs you use another part called “Media manager”. Like iTunes but simpler, easier and faster.
Only one complaint so far. I ripped a book (Bill Bryson – A Walk in the Woods), which had five CDs. It did everything fine but when it filed the CDs on the device it did so in a different order – kind of CD 4, 2, 5, 3 & 1. This means you have to hunt out the right CD each time whereas the iPod (usually) would allow you to press play once and it would run through the entire book. Most likely this is a case of R.T.F.M on my part.
EDIT – seems that the Sony software will not allow me to edit track details. This isn’t an issue with most one CD albums but for audio books it is a mess. Means I’m stuck with iTunes for ripping books. Not ideal and a bad point for Sony.
Anyway. If you’re on the market for an mp3 player I’d thoroughly recommend giving iPod a miss and getting stuck into a Sony ABC-123%$@. You lose some memory capacity, 16GB versus 80 but to be honest, that’s unlikely to cause you any problems when it’s so easy to get stuff on and take it off. Apart from that, everything else is better.
Apple television anyone? I think I might just wait a while for that one. As I’m encouraging my wife to do with the iPhone, much to her annoyance! Steve Jobs is sick, is the company going the same way?
EDIT 2 (Jan 2014) – some bastard stole the Sony! The old iPod classic is still going strong attached to Yamaha dock along with TV, DVD etc. We have an iPod Touch, an iPad, iMac and bunch of iPhones. We’re even considering buying Apple TV. Just goes to show….never say never.