We were ecstatic to have been sent the latest Sony X Series Walkman player for a review recently. After testing it out thoroughly for a week, we felt it was about time to share what we thought of Sony’s new flagship OLED Walkman and also answer some of the questions which have been sent in during this time.
As most of you will have already seen from the galleries we posted earlier on last week. Our first impression of the X1050 was that it was an excellent well designed, very fresh looking new Walkman player. Possibly due to the amount of hype thats been going up with regards to its OLED, much of our attention at first sight was on its three inch touch display.
The X1050, in Apple terms, is considerably smaller if compared to the iPod Touch and felt much like Sony’s version of the iPod Nano but with a full touch screen. In fact its size was quite suited for the palm of our hands, we liked the extra grip Sony had given to the side of the new X1050 using a gravel like material around the edge. The “precious”, most talked about OLED was consealed under a thick, scratch resistant like surface though this did not compromise any of its touch sensitivity (no, you don’t need a stylus!).
Buttons and keys were not in excess and were not too overwhelming. On the left of the X1050 were reasonably sized volume keys, just below it was a convenient switch for quickly enabling and disabling noise canceling function.
While there are no buttons on the right of the X1050, a Home key on the front at the bottom of the Walkman functions exactly like that of the iPod Touch and the iPhone by bringing you back to its main menu and widgets on pressing but also functioned to switch off the X1050 when held longer. One very minor thing we noticed with this Home key was that it felt much more stable to press and click, unlike that of Apple’s, it didn’t have a wobblely feeling as though it would start shuffling about after pressing 1000s of times. On the top of the X1050 was the a 3.5mm headphone jack, forwards and backwards keys as well as pause and play key in the center, these were all very sensibly placed.
The lack of built in speakers on the Sony X1050 surprised us, especially so when you look at the specs and see on board, built in FM radio tuner. We reckon this may have been Sony’s part in not wanting to compromise their trademark noise canceling technology functionality, but also to maintain its 33-hour music play battery life.
Features / Functionality
- User Interface: The UI in general terms was easy to use and manoeuvre. Like a number of other devices similar which portrait the iPhone’s OS nowadays, the X1050′s UI featured elastic menus on flicking. The OLED touch display was highly sensitive and responsive to finger touch, though we did not like the fact that if you flicked a menu even with the softest touch (YouTube for example) it would automatically scroll continuously and rapidly on its own until it reached the bottom. This was annoying because it was moving too fast for us to see what the texts were (title of the YouTube video for example) so we had to constantly tap the screen to stop it. Another minor drawback was the fact that widgets in the main menu did not have a title underneath it, though you could probably guess which was for the music player, we couldn’t figure out that the briefcase meant settings. The title of the widget could be revealed on holding onto one of the widgets for more than 1.5 seconds. The X1050′s UI only consists of one page of widgets, widgets cannot be moved around nor can additional widgets be added, therefore limited opportunity for customisation.
- Internet Browser: The Sony X Series Walkman’s first widget you will notice when you switch it on is probably the internet browser. Using the X1050′s WiFi, once the built in browser app is tapped, it will automatically ask you to connect to a local network or use one with a previously saved WEP key. Though we were not particularly impressed with this internet browser, simply due to its shear simplicity and the odd occassional missed taps. Its phone like keypad-style layout wasn’t too helpful neither. The lack of XT9 meant it took much longer to even type the simpliest of all words, therefore we thought it wasn’t as user-friendly as the iPod Touch’s. We believe however, if you only needed a browser on a PMP for checking emails or the news on the BBC and nothing else too intense, you could easily get by without getting too annoyed. Due to the lack of accelerometer on the X Series, landscape and portrait mode switching needs to be done manually by pressing the mode switch button. Other features supported include zooming in and out, adding bookmarks, history and the option to change your browser startup page. Also, there is no support for flash content.
- FM Radio: It was great to see a PMP that was equipped with a tuner. The X Series’ FM radio was simple and easy to use, with features like low and high sensitivity autoscanning which worked wonderfully. You can also save and preset the channels you wanted so that you don’t have to search for them everytime you switch it on.
- Music Player: We think one of main benefits of opting for the Sony X Series X1050 is the sound quality. Though the music player may not offer a tremendous amount more in terms of functions and features compared to the iPods, what Sony offers with the X Series X1050 in combination with its fantastic noise canceling earphones will definitely leave a smile on your face. We enjoyed the range of audio enhancements (equaliser, Sony’s Virtualphones Technology, dynamic normaliser) available which enabled us to get the most out of customising our music experience. Supported file formats include MP3/MP4/WMA/AAC/AVC with play modes include normal / repeat / shuffle / shuffle and repeat / repeat 1 song playback / range selection (all range / selected range) / intelligent shuffle (time machine shuffle / shuffle all). With the X Series’ music player, you can choose to play your music via a number of categories, these include by album, artist, genre, release year, playlist and folder. Like many PMPs, its not possible to remove or delete music files directly from the music player itself, this can only be done through your computer. In addition to what we’ve mentioned above, we couldn’t help noticing that the X Series’ music player also has an Apple cover flow like effect enabling you to flick through albums and playing them with an additional tap.
- YouTube: As you will have seen from our gallery, the X1050 has a built in YouTube function just like that which you find on the iPhone or iPod Touch. There is no support for HD YouTube videos which wasn’t too surprising as this would be too much for a PMP to handle. We liked the fact that watching YouTube on the X Series Walkman was stable and there weren’t too much delay with loading. Inevitably, the loading of videos will largely depend on your WiFi connection’s speed. What was also useful was the option to customise and adjust the brightness of the screen on the right bottom corner. The X1050′s YouTube software also offers featured, most watched video options as well as keyword search and related videos everytime you finish watching a video.
- Video Player: In many ways, the video player of the X Series’ resembles that of its YouTube player. With the video player, you can also conveniently adjust the brightness of the screen as you watch the video. One level of zoom is available which was not particularly useful but nor was this very significant. Disappointingly, the maximum resolution of videos the X Series will display is 320×240. Like the music player, you can look through your existing stored video files but you don’t get the cover flow effect.
- Picture Viewer: Its always nice to have the option to store photos on a PMP. With the X1050′s picture viewer, there are two ways to browse photos; thumbnails and titles or just thumbnails only. Just like the music player and video player, its not possible to edit or delete any of your files from the player itself, this needs to be done via your computer.
- Podcasts: There are three ways to get podcasts loaded up into the X1050. This can be done using Windows Media Player, using the X Series’ onboard internet browser by subscribing to podcasts directly via the web or manually opening up the podcast folder within Windows Explorer or Finder on Mac OS X. One limitation with the podcast function which was not entirely unexpected is if you used any of the above methods to load podcasts into your X1050, you won’t be able to use other methods for podcast updates. If you listen to podcasts frequently, we thought the best way to input podcasts from our experience was to do it directly via the browser.
- Noise Cancellation (NC): For those who do not believe in noise cancellation technology, you will be pleasantly surprised at how well this tech wizardry works on the X1050. The very well built Sony NC in-ear earphones included with the X1050 already performs wonderfully on its own in terms of filtering out noise. But in addition to that when you flick on the NC function switch on the right hand side of the player a noticeable dulling in background becomes apparent. Its also possible to adjust manually what sort of busy environment you’re in (bus, train, airplane), it will then adjust to a NC level which suits you best. We felt the only disappointment with the NC function of the X1050 was that this function would not work once you plug in a different pair of headphones, we do wonder however whether it would work with other NC headphones by Sony.
At a starting launch price of £210, we felt it was some what pricey but not unreasonable. The OLED touch display can literally be described as “oiled”, while the vibrant superb quality of its display pushes both the iPod Touch and the iPhone’s LED displays off the podium hands down. With a good all round solid build to its front, thick, scratch resistant screen and a hold switch on the back, the X1050 is practical enough for wear and tear in the pocket of your jeans without having to worry it would crack open under pressure.
The lack of built in speakers and the requirement to strictly use the X Series’ included headphones in order for NC function to be enabled may disappoint those who have been looking for iPod Touch alternatives.
Usability wise, we thought adding a simple remote to the headphones would make the X Series much more welcoming and friendlier to use.
The X1050 offers up to 16GB of memory capacity which was more than enough during our review for testing out music and videos. However if you intend to do more with your X Series, for example use it as a flash drive via USB or for videos, a 32GB is available also known as the X1060.
Overall we felt there were obvious features and functions which are lacking if compared to the likes of iPod Touch or iPhone. However, Sony’s bid to regain its reputation on the PMP podium with its latest X Series Walkman has been a strong step forward. S-Master technology equipped sound quality in addition to built in Sony NC function makes the X Series a strong competitor when its comes to those who regard music quality as most significant. On the flip side, the lack of an App Store means the potential for the X Series to grow with even greater fun factor is considerably limited. It is less likely to appeal to users who look to buy an overall device that will work as an organiser as well as support for popular social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. Despite the shortcomings, we believe the appeal of its vibrant OLED display will be welcomed by those who have been searching for an easy to use, basic PMP that can perform well not only with music but also videos.
Here is a sum up of what we thought of the new Sony X Series Walkman NWZ-x1050 in a few bullet points.
- Superb OLED display
- Strong, well built design
- Sound quality excels above many similar PMP of its class
- Range of sound quality enhancement functions for music play not always available from similar priced PMP
- Lack of accelerometer
- Not so user friendly on screen keypad
- Noise cancellation function not supported by other headphones
- Limited potential for personalisation (applications, colour themes for example)
If you’re interested in see more photos of the NWZ-X1050, check out our previous unboxing and hands on galleries.