Sony may have given up the portable audio crown to Apple years ago, but the Walkman pioneer has never given up the ghost. Although the tech giant made some questionable decisions during the past several years, such as placing a large amount of energy and focus into the niche-y MiniDisc market and requiring that all music played on its devices be encoded in its proprietary ATRAC3 format, Sony seems to embody the motto "live and learn."
Over the past year or so, the company has produced a handful of stylish, great-sounding MP3 players with excellent battery life. The NW-E000 series is no exception. Now, if only Sony would apply that same perseverance to its lackluster SonicStage software.
The Sony NW-E000 comes in three capacities, each with a different model number: there's the 512MB NW-E002 (available in blue), the 1GB NW-E003 (pink or silver), and the 2GB NW-E005 (green, violet, or black). For this review, I got my hands on the green NW-E005 and it's quite a stunner. The NW-E000 takes its design cues from the NW-E500 series and the larger NW-A1200 with a metallic (and colorful) plastic casing that wraps around the front and sides of the player, protecting a single-line OLED display (which is unfortunately next to impossible to read in bright sunlight).
Brushed-silver buttons for Play/Pause/Power and Folder/Home reside to the right of the screen and complement the brightly colored device. Left of the screen is the built-in USB adapter, which is covered by a matching brushed-silver cap. I expected this silver accenting to extend to the rear of the device, but instead, when you flip it over, you discover that it's enshrouded in bright, matte plastic in the same color as the device--not unattractive at all, but I'd have preferred the brushed silver.
On the back of the NW-E000, you get dedicated (albeit tiny) volume buttons and a Hold switch. And on the top edge is a shuttle rocker, which serves different purposes depending on which mode you are in. You can press the Folder/Home button to toggle between folder (album) and song modes. The shuttle button will then either scrub through albums (in the former) or tracks (in the latter). If you hold down the Folder/Home button, it takes you to the top menu, where you can select from All Songs (takes you to the folder/song view), FM, Playlist (takes you to a playlist/songs view), Search, and Menu, which has different selections depending on whether you are in digital music or FM mode.