Sony NWZ-S738 Walkman review: Sony NWZ-S738 Walkman

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CNET Editors' Rating

4.5 stars Outstanding
Pricing Unavailable

The Good Built-in noise cancellation. Dedicated volume keys. Great sound. Fast, logically arranged menus. Heaps and heaps of tweaking options.

The Bad Nav key is a bit small. SensMe is no Genius. Noise cancellation reduces battery life.

The Bottom Line An excellent player with meaty sound. If you're a bit over the whole iPod thing, this is a very good alternative to the Nano.

CNET Editors' Choice Nov '08

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The NWZ-S730 series is available in two capacities: a $229 8GB version (known as the S738) and a $289 16GB version (the NWZ-S739). Each one looks very similar to the previous model in Sony's MP3 line-up, the NWZ-A728 . The main difference is in the buttons under the display — the tiny rectangular Back and Option keys on the A728 have thankfully been replaced by larger, more finger-friendly circles. It's the same story with the navigation button, which is circular instead of square. The only downside to the redesign is that you may need to train your thumb to get out of scrollwheel mode.

The S730 range shares its screen specs with the new iPod Nanos: both have a 2-inch (5.1-centimetre), 320x240-pixel, portrait-oriented display. Unlike the Apple player, the S738 is not equipped with an accelerometer, but you can easily flip videos and pictures to landscape mode by pressing the Option button during playback. Left-handers will be pleased to note that there are two horizontal orientations to choose from.

On the right of the S738 are dedicated volume buttons — always a winner — and a hold switch. The bottom of the player houses a noise-cancelling switch, a proprietary port for USB connection and the headphone socket. Dimension-wise the S738 is the slimmest Walkman yet at 7.5 millimetres thick. That's 1.3 millimetres fatter than the Nano, for the sticklers out there.

The big feature of the S730 range is that each device has built-in noise-cancelling — not built into the headphones, but lurking in the circuitry of the player itself. Sony claims that activating the function reduces up to 75 per cent of the surrounding noise, which is a bonus for train commuters and frequent flyers.

The S730 series supports MP3, WMA, protected WMA, WAV and AAC audio formats. The inclusion of AAC widens the options for online music purchases — as well as being able to buy from WMA services like LoadIt and BigPond Music, you can buy iTunes Plus songs from the iTunes Store. The protected AAC files that make up the bulk of the iTunes catalogue are still incompatible though.

SensMe, a music analyser last seen on Sony Ericsson's Walkman phones, categorises your songs according to mood and BPM, allowing you quick access to playlists full of similar-sounding tunes. A similar feature known as Genius has recently been introduced to the iPod line-up.

If you dig tinkering with settings and customising your player to within an inch of its life, you'll be satisfied with the S738. The list of options in the audio settings menu is truly impressive, incorporating preset and custom equalisers, virtual surround, a dynamic normaliser, DSEE sound enhancement and a clear stereo setting. Add all these to the noise cancellation and you've got a smorgasbord of choices for optimising your music library. It's a similar story with the other settings: you can choose from 10 menu themes or set any image as the wallpaper.

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Where to Buy

Sony NWZ-S738 Walkman

Part Number: CNETSony NWZ-S738 Walkman

Typical Price: $289.00

See manufacturer website for availability.