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. re: beatsme

    I agree with you there. I found that their audio quality is actually quite good. But their reliability is crappy. I’ve purchased my share of Discman’s and stereo equipment, because I thought the response was better than the other offerings at the same price point. But, within a year or two, they’ve got some small problem, which grows and multiplies over time.

    Now, I have an iPod, so I don’t care about Discman anymore. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” />

  2. That Mac360 “shootout” is based on printed specs from Sony and Apple, not from actually using the product. It’s a misleading article using buzz words normally used for actual testing of product. That being said, the Sony isn’t very good according to Mossberg and he is a fair reporter on these matters so I believe him.

  3. M$ is not putting out any MP3 player. They are licensing the software to several manufacturers to produce players using their proprietary format. (Until there’s an M$ music store that is.)

  4. Hey, be a little nicer with you evaluation, pkradd (if that’s your real name). You’re just plain wrong. Have you held a new gen iPod in your hand? Or a Dell DJ?

    I did and that’s how the product review was written. And what’s misleading? That the iPod is better? That was the conclusion. That the Dell or Sony can score a few points? What’s your “anal-ysis?

    There were two two-page “shootouts” of the new gen iPod and the Sony Walkman and the Dell DJ on my site.

    Where’s your reviews? Where’s your analysis? Why are you misleading MDN readers?


  5. No, pkradd is right. That Mac360 “review” is worthless. There is no insight on Sony’s product. It’s apparent that Tera has never used Sony’s product. What’s with that hair anyway?

  6. I like the hair. Kinda sexy, in a Mac-like sorta way. Those pants? Whew!

    The review was OK and offered a good comparison of the two, albeit a bit biased toward the Mac, but that’s expected, I guess. It’s real easy to say “worthless”, but your review of the review and the reviewer must be worthless, too, because you don’t provide any insight on the review. The point is, it’s easy to criticise others from the standpoint of anonymity; no one knows who you are or cares much. Your statement is empty and meaningless without something of substance which states “why” you do or don’t like something. You fall into the same trap you set for others.

    Where’s your insightful commentary?

    From what I can tell, there’s been very few actual hands on reports of the Sony Walkman. It seems to have shown up, pictures, too, at a few media sites in both UK and US, and Sony was showing it off in Hawaii (many Japanese tourists there); maybe that’s where the review was done.

    Personally, I found the review (critical analysis coming… duck…) both entertaining and informative in that it compared product features to both products, and then outlined the basic areas where most of us compare when thinking about a purchase; cost, capacity, capability, size, accessories, ease of use, and, eventually, the value.

    iPod wins, of course. Maybe that was the point.

    Now, the Dell DJ? That is another story. They were offering $100 to trade in old iPods for a DJ. I’ve never met anyone who claimed to own the Dell. In the stores everyone asks for the iPod.

  7. Apple’s competitors are indeed struggling to design and market something that is both significantly different and as inherently functional as the iPod.

    Unfortunately, the iPod seems to represent the apex of digital design, meaning that nothing yet available is in the same class. Not that Apple cannot improve upon the iPod, it’s just that the iPod is simply better than the rest. It seems that Apple had the better idea and made it work first.

    This is another case of too little, too late by the rest of the crowd.

  8. Willy Nilly, you may be right. But let me explain myself anyway.

    I wasn’t reviewing the review. I was agreeing with pkradd. Did you read what pkradd wrote? There is no insightful commentary because it wasn’t commentary. It was just a “pkradd is right!” kind of thing.

  9. “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!”

    how dumb can you get? i hope that was ironic as there is more to this than some simple math.

    appearantly the thingy plays 25-27 hours on higher bitrates. around 20 at 256kbps so it still blows the ipod out of the water as far as battery life goes.

    “Even the PS2 is just “ok,’ though when compared to XBox it’s a piece of crap as well.”

    the ps2 was released way before the xbox so a comparision on performance etc. is somewhat pointless. that said, ps2 didn’t compare too well with sega’s dreamcast which was even older.

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