Sony's latest Walkman lineup sizzles

Sony drops a salvo of Walkman personal media players, including a new Android 4.0-powered device with FLAC support, a thin S-series with included Bluetooth earbuds, and a couple of budget-friendly E-series players.

Editor's note: For CNET's initial impressions of the F800 and E470 please see our First Take.

Sony, as is typical for this time of year, has refreshed its Walkman lineup for the fall. Take a look at our breakdown of the new devices:

Sony F800 series Android Walkman
At first glance, Sony's F800 Walkman, due in the U.S. this August, looks uninspiring, but it actually packs a feature never before seen in a Walkman. We'll discuss that later.

First, the basics. The Walkman F series features a 3.5-inch multitouch-capable LCD screen and a Tegra 2 (dual-core) processor running Android 4.0. In its press release, the company wastes no time mentioning Google Play and Music Unlimited support. Unfortunately, it appears Sony decided to play capacities conservatively with 16GB ($269) and 32GB ($299) options (Europe gets an additional 8GB model). CNET queried Sony as to why it didn't go with a 64GB option F series for music aficionados, and a representative said that "if there was expressed demand for it, we could consider it, but it was not offered at this time due to current demand statistics."

The F's aesthetics look typical for Sony's current design mantra: minimalism across the board, thin profile (2.23 inches wide by 4.5 inches high by 0.3 inches deep), and a thoughtful throwback Walkman logo to please the reminiscent.

Just like the Walkman Z of yesteryear, the F contains the sonically stimulating S-Master Digital Amplifier (and the full bravado of other options that add color to sound), Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. Additionally, the built-in speaker returns, and Sony tossed in a pair of MDR-EX0300E earbuds.

Surprisingly, in a Walkman first, Sony added FLAC codec support to the F series. While FLAC means little to the average person, the audiophile community might have a hard time ignoring this nice addition.

Of course, the F supports a slew of other audio and video codecs, including MP3, WMA, HE-AAC, PCM, MPEG4, AVC (H.264), and WMV. Sony's artificial battery tests ping expected life at 20 hours (using 128Kbps MP3s) during audio playback, and 4.5 hours of video time.

Sony S770BT and E570/E470 series Walkman
Sony's midrange and budget Walkman options also get an upgrade in the refresh.

The new S series Walkman, unavailable in the U.S. (for now). (Click to enlarge.) Sony

The 8GB S770BT (officially unannounced in the U.S., but hits Europe now) packs a tried-but-true media player UI standard on Sony multimedia devices, with a 2-inch QVGA LCD screen and a familiar circular button interface below. The main selling point surely lies in the included MDR-NWBT10 Bluetooth wireless earbuds, FM radio, and supposed 36 hours of battery life during audio playback.

Those who like to watch videos on tiny 2-inch screens can also get six hours of eye-straining enjoyment. Codec support stands the same as the F series Android Walkman, minus FLAC support.

We also got word of a Walkman E470 series due in the U.S. this August, also referred to as "the slimmest Walkman player ever from Sony" at a little more than a quarter inch thick. Available in red and black, the E470 comes with a 2-inch screen and in 4GB ($79), 8GB ($89), and 16GB ($109) sizes. Aside from the usual sound-coloring options to enhance bass and clarity, it also offers FM radio, lyrics support, and a Karaoke mode.

The Walkman E470 comes in many colors in other parts of the world, but the U.S. only gets red and black. Oh well. (Click to enlarge.) Sony

The new 8GB and 16GB E570 series (officially unannounced in the U.S., hits Europe now) stands as the only device in this lineup that features noise cancelling. Sony includes a pair of MDR-NC033E noise cancelling ear buds in the package. Announced in Europe, the E570 comes in 8GB and 16GB varieties, with the same basic features, battery life, and codec support as the newly announced S series.

In a Walkman first, the E series plays basic games like Tetris, Sudoku, Puyo Pop Fever, and Number Place. A Sony representative told CNET the "closed environment" for the non-Android players means "you cannot load additional games."

The E570 missed a U.S. debut today, but we hope the noise-cancelling package comes here soon. (Click to enlarge.) Sony

 

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