This Sony NWZ-A826 ranks among the best portable digital media players in terms of audio quality.
Clocking in at £139, Sony's 4GB Walkman isn't cheap – if you take the iPod nano route, you can get twice that capacity for ?10 less. So what do you get for the money? One word: Bluetooth.
As well as a good-quality pair of in-ear buds, the Sony NWZ-A826 comes with a larger pair of Bluetooth headphones that enable you to enjoy your tunes wirelessly, provided the player is within a metre or so of your ears.
We found the Sony NWZ-A826's wireless setup process initially confusing – you need to consult two different manuals just to work out how to put each device into pairing mode – but perfectly understandable once we'd got the hang of it. And you don't realise how annoying the wire between player and headphones can be until you've experienced life without it.
And the possibilities of the Sony NWZ-A826's Bluetooth don't stop there. You can get another pair of wireless headphones, of course, or you could try hooking up to a hi-fi and blast your songs through some chunky speakers. All very convenient and futuristic.
All of which would be no good at all if the Sony NWZ-A826 wasn't up to its core duties – but there are no worries there. Loading the device with songs is simple: either use Windows Media Player or drag-and-drop into the relevant folders from your desktop.
Sound quality is excellent: rich, smooth and bassy, whether using the in-ear buds or Bluetooth headphones. We found that beat-heavy music had more of a kick than we were used to, and even when we switched to a cheaper third-party pair of headphones the sound was decent. This Sony NWZ-A826 ranks among the best devices out there for audio quality.
We also found the Sony NWZ-A826 to be excellent at playing video clips, thanks to the size and quality of its 2.4in screen, which is closer to the iiPod classic's display than that of the nano. Video is sharp and smooth in playback.
The Sony NWZ-A826 is an excellent example of a multimedia player, one that looks good and benefits superbly from Bluetooth technology. Getting just 4GB capacity for ?139 is rather galling, however.