The Sony X-Series Walkman is the first touch-screen player from the company. It offers 16GB for $299 or 32GB for $399 and comes in one color: geode (basically: metallic black).
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The big news coming out of the official X-Series launch in the U.S. is the inclusion of an onboard Slacker app, which gives the user access to new music--completely free and on-the-go.
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The Slacker app uses the Wi-Fi capability to refresh stations, which you can choose by connecting the player to your computer. Once a station is refreshed, the content is cached on the device and you no longer need a wireless connection to listen. You can "heart" and "ban" tracks directly on the device itself.
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The X-Series also has a built-in YouTube menu option, which takes you directly to the video streaming service where you can access free content while connected to Wi-Fi.
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Even podcasts can be updated completely on the fly, wherever you have an Internet connection. And you can use the Web browser feature to subscribe to new podcasts.
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The Web browser is pretty basic, and not as elegant as the one found on the iPod Touch, but at least it provides a way to access mobile sites in a pinch.
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The main issue with browsing is the lack of a full QUERTY keyboard. It makes inputting Web addresses and search terms fairly tedious. This is something that could be addressed with future firmware, we suppose.
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Sony also took steps to integrate the Wi-Fi into your own music listening experience. A "related links" feature on the playback page will take you to either YouTube videos or a Yahoo search of the artist/song playing.
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Sony handled the touch-screen interface excellently on the X-Series Walkman. It is second only to the iPod Touch in its accuracy and "cool" factor.
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One of the coolest interface features on the X-Series is the tilt-and-scroll feature for video scanning and album art browsing. Press your finger to the screen, swipe to one side, and see snippets fly by, tilting toward the direction of your pull.
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One of the coolest things about this player is that you don't have to use the touch screen to control playback. Sony included tactile play/pause and track shuttle buttons on the top edge of the Walkman.
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Plus, there's a dedicated volume rocker built into the right side.
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And a nice, big hold switch on the backside.
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This means blind navigation is possible for music playback--you don't even have to take the player out of your pocket to skip a track or control volume.
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The bottom edge of the X-Series houses the standard Walkman connection port for charging and syncing with the computer.
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Sony also includes a basic padded carrying pouch for storing the Walkman, whether you are using it or not.
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All in all, the X-Series Walkman is shaping up to be a viable contender for the iPod Touch in terms of features and usability. And we'd bet it sounds better too.
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