Sony can be credited with making music portable with the introduction of their first Walkman in 1979. They have carefully nurtured the brand and taken it through the format changes over the years from cassette to CD. Now with digital becoming the de facto medium for music, they have brought the Walkman into the future in the shape of the new NWZ-Z1050, which was shown at CES 2012. Although all smartphones today can serve as portable music players, this new device is intended to provide better audio performance and is targeted at people who do not wish to have all their eggs in one basket.
It seems that Sony is late to the party as similar products in the shape of the Samsung Galaxy S WiFi 4 and 5, along with the popular iPod Touch, have existed in the market for quite a while now. The NWZ-Z1050 runs on Android 2.3, a step ahead of the Froyo 2.2 OS that the Samsung counterparts sport, and operations are handled by an NVIDIA Tegra 2 Dual-core processor. For the purposes of a portable media player, this combination provides a snappy, responsive interface which is more than capable of handling audio and video playback. Visuals are displayed on a 4.3-inch LCD screen with an anti-reflective treatment.
Where the Sony NWZ-Z1050 differs from the competition is its S-Master MX 1-bit Digital-to-Analog Converter. Sony’s nous when it comes to audio products is well known, and now they are bringing their audiophile sensibilities to their new portable music player as well. When compared to our trusty iPod Classic 160GB model, we found the Z1050 to deliver audio that was slightly cleaner and clearer as well as displaying a hint of greater detail. A good showing from Sony's DAC should make this attractive to users.
Another unique feature of this portable music player is the W button, found on the right hand side of the product. Pressing it instantly brings up the music control menu on screen and allows for easy switching of tracks. Sony has also introduced the SensMe, a software that can generate playlists from a selection of 14 pre-defined moods. Though a nice addition, it pales in comparison to Apple’s Genius Playlist feature. Access to the Google Play store provides users with the option to download the latest applications. In line with their aims of creating better inter-connectivity among their devices, the Z1050 also features DLNA capabilities.
Unfortunately the new Sony Walkman Z does have some shortcomings, the most glaring of which is the fact that it does not feature a camera. While the validity of including a camera on a portable music player is debatable, both the Samsung Galaxy S WiFi and the iPod Touch have the ability to snap photos which gives them an edge in attracting customers their way. At the same time, the NWZ-Z1050 keeps up with the trend of not being able to handle lossless formats like FLAC and AAC, something we wished had been implemented.
The Sony Walkman NWZ-Z1050 will be going on sale this week of May 2012 at a price of S$429.