Just a few months ago, we had the Sony Walkman NW-A800 series in our lab. While we were impressed with it, there were some minor issues, but in timely fashion, Sony has revisited it with the upgraded NWZ-A826 bursting onto the scene with some attitude.
Encased in a chic metallic casing, the A826 comes in black, white, gold and our personal favorite, pink. Sharing similar design traits with previous Sony models, the build quality is solid and easy to grip in our hands. The button placement of the A826 is straightforward, being flushed with the unit and enhanced with slight curvatures on the edge that gives you easier access to the required buttons even with the device in your pocket.
Unfortunately, the A826 requires a proprietary connector for charging. Considering how mini-USB charging is a common sight for many other similar devices, this decision is nevertheless unsurprising since Sony doesn’t have a habit of adopting universal formats when it comes to connectivity.
The A826 supports a number of popular music file formats including MP3, WMA and AAC, complemented with a host of audio mixer settings such as a customizable equalizer for those who want a more personal music experience. Additionally, Sony generously provides a set of earphones from their EX range, which feature their customary dynamic-driver type canal earphones, giving excellent value for those looking for a better out-of-the-box experience. Sound quality was impressive as could be expected with these quality earphones, with the bass and treble both kept in check for maximum audio performance.
Of course, you can always whip out your favorite, personal pair of third-party earphones, and things would still sound as good, if not better, depending on the quality of your earbuds or even your Bluetooth stereo headphones. That's right, on the surface, the A826 might be just another MP3 player on the block but looks can be deceiving as this little number comes with complete Bluetooth connectivity that gives you 4GB worth of cable-free, A2DP-enabled music.
Video formats are limited to H.264 and MPEG-4, which can be easily encoded into with the ever-reliable SUPER application. Playback using our test video clip resulted in smooth frame rates, while the screen had decent viewing angles all around. On the battery front, the A826 was quite outstanding, lasting up to three continuous and intense days of music and video before the built-in battery needed a refresher.
Though priced at US$169, the A826 manages to deliver a strong suite of portable entertainment features that should satisfy almost anyone. Even with the inflexibility of its charging options, the bells and whistles that are thrown in such as the impeccable audio fidelity with its bundled earphones, the added option of Bluetooth connectivity, a decent 4GB capacity and its long-lasting battery stamina, the Sony NWZ-A826 Walkman Player should give consumers their full bang for the buck.