Mossberg: Sony Walkman ‘laborious, weak, lousy, confusing, stinks’ vs. Apple iPod

The Wall Street Journal’s Walter Mossberg has been testing Sony’s would-be iPod killer, the “Network Walkman NW-HD1,” and comes to some interesting, if predictable, conclusions.

“One major downside of the new Walkman is that it can’t play MP3 files, or any of the other standard formats. It can play back only a proprietary Sony format called ATRAC3, or a variation called ATRAC3plus. This means that, when you transfer your MP3 files to the new Walkman, Sony’s PC software must laboriously convert them first into ATRAC3 files… the Walkman’s biggest weakness is its lousy user interface, which is dense and confusing. The SonicStage 2 software and the Connect music store are also badly designed. This is because, for all its historic brilliance in designing hardware, Sony stinks at software,” Mossberg reports.

“Sony… claims the player can store up to 13,000 songs. But that’s only if you use a very low-quality standard, 48 kilobits per second, which reduces audio quality. In fact, the new Walkman holds the same 5,000 songs as the 20 gigabyte iPod when you use a quality level roughly comparable to the default on the iPod,” Mossberg reports. “If you love the Sony name, or the Walkman’s size and design, or if you regularly take flights lasting more than 12 hours, you might be willing to pay $100 more for this new Walkman over an iPod. But, for everybody else, until Sony fixes the multitude of sins in this product, steer clear of it.”

“Our verdict: While the new Sony is smaller than the iPod and has much better battery life, it is markedly inferior overall. It has a confusing, complex user interface that makes it hard to use; weak software for the PC; an oddball music format that makes loading it with songs tedious; and a companion music download service that offers less than Apple’s. The iPod wins this round, and remains champion,” Mossberg reports.

Full article here.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Analyst Enderle: Sony way too late to compete with Apple iPod, iTunes – May 04, 2004
Sony debuts online music store, 99-cent songs in iPod-incompatible ATRAC3 format – May 04, 2004
NY Times pans Sony Connect debut: ‘maybe they ought to call it Sony Disconnect’ – May 05, 2004
Apple iTunes Music Store vs. Sony Connect is no contest, Apple wins with ease – May 09, 2004
Analysts: Sony will struggle trying to take on Apple in digital music market – May 11, 2004
Sony lumbers after Apple but it’s not working – May 24, 2004
Washington Post: Sony’s internet music service ‘is an embarrassment to the company that gave the world the Walkman’ – May 29, 2004
San Francisco Chronicle: Sony Walkman vs. Apple iPod – July 07, 2004
Apple blasts Sony on misleading Walkman song capacity claims – July 08, 2004


  1. Sony probably says 12 hour battery life because it was test with song encoded at 48 kilobits. Such a small file would not require the hard drive to spin as much. I was like to see some real battery tests at song encoode at 128 or 192.


    Or something like that..

    If only Apple wasn’t already swamped in Demand.. they could EASILY pull of a Dell $100 back deal..

    Now as for Apple Computers.. hehe

  3. I don’t quite understand why Sony has such a good reputation in terms of quality. I’ve owned several Sony products over the years and for the most part they’ve all sucked. Even the PS2 is just “ok,’ though when compared to XBox it’s a piece of crap as well.

  4. re: battery life

    Actually that ‘supposed’ 30 hour battery life was ALSO based off of playing songs at 48k. 30 hours of music at 48k is less disk space than 30 hours of music at 128k, which means you’re accessing the hard drive less.

    Amazingly the direct ratio of bit rates to battery life, (48k/128k)*30 hours = 11.25 hours. Just around the new battery life of the new ipod. Ain’t math great!

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