Review: Sony Walkman Z Series
- — 28 May, 2012 22:00
|Name||Portable media player: Sony Walkman Z Series|
|At a glance:||Good audio quality,Device is huge,1GHz, dual-core Android 2.3 player,No expandable storage|
|Summary:||The Walkman Z shows promise, but the little problems add up.|
|RRP:||$360 (16GB), $430 (32GB)|
Sony's Walkman Z is the first MP3 player to run Android, so fans of the operating system will be happy to hear of its arrival. The fact that the Walkman has a 1GHz dual-core processor and digital amplifier tech should make those people even happier.
The Walkman functions like any other Android 2.3 device (there are no plans for an upgrade to 4.0 yet), but without the phone component. You can download apps, check your email, update Twitter – all the 'smart' features of your phone are available here. Unfortunately, despite the 1GHZ processor, performance can at times be sluggish.
But that's not the first thing you'll notice about the Walkman Z. The first thing you'll notice is that it's huge. The device has a 4.3-inch screen, so it should at least be smaller than the HTC Sensation XL, with its 4.7in screen. But it's not. It's roughly the same height and width, because of its huge bezel, and significantly thicker and heavier. It's so big that frankly it looks more like an in-car GPS system than an MP3 player. Could I take the Walkman Z on the bus in the morning? Yes, but it'd be uncomfortable. Could I take it for a run with me? Absolutely not, unless I brought along an extra bag to house it. Even strapping the Walkman Z to my arm would be a hassle – it's just that chunky.
That said, if you're after an MP3 player to use in your house with your home stereo system, you could use the Walkman Z. Sound quality is above-average, and it can be paired with any music streaming service that works on Android devices. As such, you can get a vast amount of high-quality music playing on it, and it sounds surprisingly good for a smartphone-like device. It also has a relatively large speaker on the back of it, so even without plugging in headphones it's an improvement on most phones and portable music players. The long bettery life is a benefit, too – you can go a few days before it'll need a recharge.
However, two things I've come to expect from Android devices aren't there. First, there's no expandable memory, so you're stuck with the storage space that's available to you on whichever model you buy. The operating system takes up several GB of that space, too. Second, rather than using what is becoming the universal standard micro USB power cable, Sony has given the Walkman Z a proprietary one. Not only that, but it doesn't match the plugs of any other Sony devices I could find – there were several at both the office and my home. There are only a couple of manufacturers that still do this on a regular basis – I'm looking at you, Apple and Samsung – and it's annoying every time.
Finally, there's the price. The Walkman Z's 32GB version costs $430, as does the 32GB iPod touch. Given that Apple's product already has market share, that's going to be an issue for Sony. The Walkman Z does have one advantage, though – unlike the iPod touch, there is a 16GB model available at $360 for those who think 8GB is too small but 32GB too large.
Buying a Walkman Z could be useful for three types of people: those who want the functions of a smartphone without the extra cost, those who want to tinker around with Android cheaply, and those who plan to only use their MP3 players at home, anyway. Most others should give this one a miss.