Simple, sleek, and understated
The newest series of Walkmans comes in a variety of capacity/color combos. You can go with a 2GB ($120) S-615 version in black, pink, red, or silver; a 4GB ($160) S-616 model in the same choice of colors; or the more capacious 8GB S-618, which comes only in black and will set you back $210. It's not the cheapest player on the block--the Creative Zen V Plus, which offers roughly the same features, runs 30 to 40 bucks cheaper. However, the NWZ-S610 offers a more sophisticated design with a larger (1.8-inch) screen and a higher-quality feel. It's also a little larger overall, measuring 3.1 inches by 1.6 inches by 0.4 inch, though whether this is a good or bad thing depends on the user. It's certainly pocket-friendly.
Below the ample screen, the NWZ-S610 offers a similarly well-proportioned control pad. A central play/pause key is surrounded by four tactile directional arrows, which are used for skipping tracks and navigating menus. Happily, volume is handled via a dedicated rocker on the right spine of the device. The front of the player also houses the ever-handy back/home and power/option (contextual menu) buttons. A hold switch can be found on the left edge of the device, while the top and bottom contain the standard 3.5-millimeter headphone jack and proprietary USB port, respectively.
Easy navigation and easier syncing
In general, the Walkman is a snap to use. This is in large part due to a lovely, icon-driven main menu on the device itself, but we can't forget the absence of the requirement to load music via SonicStage--that's a huge help on the software/transfer side of things. Transferring songs, including subscription playlists from Rhapsody, is a breeze, and the NWZ-S610 plays oh-so-nicely with Windows Media Player for syncing any content. Supported formats include MP3, WMA, and AAC for audio; AVC (H.264/AVC) Baseline Profile and MPEG-4 for videos; and JPEG for photos. If you get tired of your own content, you can tune into the onboard FM radio, which offers an autoscan feature and 30 preset slots.