Mac Site "Tests" New 4G iPod Vs. Sony Digital Walkman..... Or Do They?

in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
A hands on comparison? At first glance it looks like a legit "Shootout". Of course the iPod wins. But read carefully for the telltale signs and you'll realize they haven't actually had both players to test in person. Poor journalism. Mac Specific sites aren't immune to this I'm afraid. Too bad.

Here's the article.


  • Reply 1 of 10
    eugeneeugene Posts: 8,254member
    I see nothing wrong with the comparison. The author doesn't claim to have handled either of them. In fact she points out how the Sony unit isn't even on the market yet.
  • Reply 2 of 10
    macsrgood4umacsrgood4u Posts: 3,007member
    Well, she makes determinations on which unit "wins" each category without actually hearing or using the Sony Walkman (or the new iPod either). Making a determination as such and posting results seems to me to be a bit premature. Why not wait until the product can really be tested rather then a phony "shootout". When commenting on the sound of the Sony, for example, the writer exclaims "users say it is hard to tell the difference" (between the units). What users? Using ambiguous comments like that doesn't make for a valid assessment. Just because it's a pro-Mac site doesn't mean it should delve into this kind of stuff.
  • Reply 3 of 10
    eugeneeugene Posts: 8,254member
    "Users [of ATRAC3, MP3 and AAC] say it's hard to tell the difference."

    Again, I see no problem with a purely spec-based assessment. Hell, CNET does that with everything.
  • Reply 4 of 10
    quagmirequagmire Posts: 558member
    I agree that does sound fake. She says sony claims to have a 30 hour battery life. If she had the sony she would have tested it to see if it was right.
  • Reply 5 of 10
    I could believe it. Sony products that use ATRAC3 have incredibly good battery life. Those Minidisc players run for days on a single AA battery.

    Regarding how ATRAC3 sounds, my younger brother has an ATRAC3 CD walkman and encodes music at 64 kpbs and sounds very good. It's hard to tell the difference between that and say, a 128 kbps MP3 file. Well, maybe if you're an audiophile you can tell... but for the rest of us...
  • Reply 6 of 10
    the writer didn't point out how awkward it seems to use the buttons on the Sony, it's small and in a weird place, there is no way to hold it and use it, not very ergonomic.
  • Reply 7 of 10
    Like Danika Cleary was quoted as saying on, the new Sony device is not ergonomic for left-handed people. The scroll button is on the right side of the unit, making it hard to get to, whereas the iPod's wheel is in the exact center. Cleary ended by saying, "The new Sony player isnt keeping us up at nights."
  • Reply 8 of 10
    placeboplacebo Posts: 5,767member
    Why is the iPod the only frickin' player (except the Dell No-sell DJ) that has its scroll wheel in a position where you can actually frickin' see it? You'd think it'd be obvious.
  • Reply 9 of 10
    eugeneeugene Posts: 8,254member
    But is Danika Cleary ergonomic for left-handed people?
  • Reply 10 of 10
    macsrgood4umacsrgood4u Posts: 3,007member
    From Wall Street Journal column:


    uly 28, 2004

    Sony's iPod Killer


    Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod digital music player has fended off every rival product handily, not only remaining the most popular digital music player, but becoming a cultural icon and spawning an industry of accessories and of legal music downloads.

    Next month, however, the iPod will face its most potent competitor. This latest challenger is none other than Sony Corp., the Japanese giant that revolutionized portable music with its Walkman tape players 25 years ago. Sony, which has lost its leadership in portable music to Apple, will try to regain that crown with its first iPod-type high-capacity, hard-disk-based music player.

    My assistant, Katie Boehret, and I have been testing Sony's would-be iPod killer -- a sleek, slim, silvery, magnesium-clad gadget inelegantly called the "Network Walkman NW-HD1," which holds 20 gigabytes of music and is set to go on sale in mid-August for $399. Sony plans a massive ad campaign to back the new Walkman, and to try and revive the once grand, but now faded, Walkman brand.

    The $399 Network Walkman NW-HD1 from Sony Corp. See a comparison of portable players.

    A second Sony hard-disk player, a bulkier but more radically styled model that will sell for $499, will be introduced later this year by another division of famously Balkanized Sony -- the group that makes the company's Vaio computers. But Sony officials say they are placing their emphasis, and most of their marketing dollars, on the new Walkman entry, not the Vaio.

    We've also been testing Sony's new online music service, Connect, which is designed to work hand-in-hand with both new players and to compete with Apple's wildly successful iTunes Music Store. Both the new Walkman and the Connect store, work only with Windows computers.

    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.

    For Sony, the stakes in this battle are high, especially in the crucial U.S. market.

    When the online digital music revolution erupted a few years ago, Sony was missing in action, for two main reasons. First, it bet on the wrong horse, a technology called MiniDisc, or MD, which never caught on big in the U.S. Second, because it owns a music label that was initially hostile to music downloading, Sony's first memory-based digital music players were loaded with restrictions on consumers and turned off digital music enthusiasts.

    Apple iPod mini

    Apple, acutely aware of Sony's new challenge, isn't standing still. Earlier this month, it introduced its fourth generation of the full-sized iPod, with 50% more battery life and streamlined controls and menus. And it knocked $100 off the iPod's price, which saddled the new Walkman with a $100 price premium. Sony doesn't plan a matching price cut.

    In two key areas, Sony beats Apple. The new Walkman, which looks sort of like a small digital camera, is shorter than the iPod, and a bit thinner and wider. Even though it packs the same hard-disk capacity, the Sony is about 10% smaller in overall volume and it's also a third lighter, at 3.8 ounces vs. 5.6 ounces for the Apple. It's not as small or light as Apple's iPod mini, but the mini is in a different category, with much lower capacity.

    And the Sony trounces the Apple in battery life, which has been the iPod's main weakness. Even though Apple boosted the battery life on the latest iPod model to 12 hours from eight hours, Sony claims anywhere from 20 to 30 hours of battery life, depending on the quality level at which the digital song files on the Walkman were stored. Higher-quality files drain the battery quicker. Like the iPod, the Walkman uses a sealed battery that can't easily be replaced by the user.

    In our battery test, the Walkman got about 22 hours of play time on a single battery charge, well below the 27 hours Sony claims for the quality level of files we were using. Our iPod got a little over the 12 hours Apple claims, but the Sony still won hands down.

    After that, however, the advantages are all to the iPod.

    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. Sony claims it designed the player this way because ATRAC3 produces superior sound, and because it has features that extend battery life.

    To transfer MP3 song files from your PC to the Walkman, you first launch the software Sony supplies to manage the Walkman, called SonicStage 2. It finds all the MP3 files on your PC, and then offers you the option of copying any or all of them to the Walkman.

    That's pretty similar to other music programs. But instead of just shooting the files quickly into the player, the Sony software must grind away, converting all of them, one at a time, to the special Sony format.

    For my test, I used a very modest collection of 431 standard MP3 files. SonicStage 2 refused to transfer 15 of the files, posting a nonsensical error message. After that, it took an agonizingly long two hours and 13 minutes to transfer the remaining 416 tracks to the Walkman. By contrast, Apple's iTunes software transferred all 431 songs to an iPod in about four minutes.

    Also, the Sony software stores a shadow copy of your music library on your hard disk in ATRAC3 format, so the tracks don't ever have to be converted again, but this takes up much more hard-disk space than iTunes requires.

    And, unlike the iPod and other hard-disk players, the new Walkman can't be recharged, or connected to a computer, directly. You have to first place it in a cradle, which has the connectors for the charging and computer cables. That means you have to carry the cradle on trips. And, even with the cradle, the Walkman can't draw power from a computer for recharging, as the iPod can. You have to plug the cradle into an electrical outlet.

    But 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.

    For instance, while the Walkman's tiny screen shows lists of artists, albums and genres, it can't display a list of all your songs. And neither Katie nor I could figure out how to make it shuffle through the entire song library, even after poring through the 45-page manual. Two Sony officials gave us conflicting advice on how to do this, but their advice didn't square with the manual, which is full of discussions about things like "play units."

    By contrast, the iPod has always been able to display all your songs and to shuffle through the library. In fact, the newest model has a one-touch command called "Shuffle Songs" right on the main menu.

    And there is no mention of the basic concept of "play lists" in either the Walkman's screens or the SonicStage software. The software has something called "compilation albums," which seem like play lists. But there's no reference to these on the player's screen. The player has something called "groups," but this concept isn't mirrored in the software. When I made a "compilation album" in SonicStage and transferred it to the player, it never showed up on the screen.

    There's a button on the player called "Mode," but to set the "Play Mode," which controls the order in which songs are played back, you have to press a separate button called "Menu." By contrast the Mode button switches the screen display between artists, albums, genres and so forth. The little dial on the player for navigating all these menus is inferior to the iPod's navigation wheel, and the Walkman's screen is so small that artist names and album titles that display fine on the iPod are truncated.

    The SonicStage 2 software is supposed to manage all your music, but it can't perform a basic function: burning a standard audio CD. For that function, Sony says you have to download a special version of SonicStage from the Web. Neither version, however, will allow you to convert a CD into MP3 files, only into Sony's proprietary ATRAC3 format.

    As for the Connect service, which is accessed from inside the SonicStage software, it has nearly 100,000 fewer titles than Apple's iTunes Music Store, and, for about 10% of the tracks it does have, you can't preview the songs before buying. Connect also has more restrictive rules on burning CDs than Apple's iTunes store, and its user interface is bizarre, with a cramped little area for listing available titles surrounded by a huge, immutable gray border.

    Sony says a greatly enhanced version of Connect, with more liberal rules and better features, will be launched in September.

    On top of all that, Sony's marketing claims for the new hard-disk Walkman are over the top. The company 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.

    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.

    So, the complete experience - downloading, user interface, etc. is inferior. Who'd have thunk?
Sign In or Register to comment.