Sony is one of few companies capable of competing with--and occasionally surpassing--Apple's design sensibilities and attention to detail. Truth be told, the NW-S705F is a sexier player than the iPod Nano with similar dimensions (3 inches wide, 1 inch tall, with a thickness that varies from 0.25 inch to 0.5 inch) The metal along the edges of the player adds an luxurious-feeling heft and also helps prevent wear and tear. While the tiny menu buttons are a bit too discreet for our liking, they work well and are unobtrusive. Play, pause, and volume controls are all located on the same four-way rocker on the front of the NW-S705F; and track, skip, and scan functions are controlled by an interesting spring-loaded shuttle wheel located below the headphone jack. The shuttle wheel can be used in two modes: one that skips between songs and another that skips between albums.
The Sony NW-S705F's unique screen doesn't fare quite as well. The OLED three-line display measures exactly 0.25 inch high and 1 inch wide, and although it displays tiny versions of full-color album art in playback mode, text appears in a thin, white font probably best for younger eyes. The screen brightness is not adjustable and appears somewhat muted, as though it were being viewed through sunglasses.
The earphones included with the NW-S705F sound quite good and come with three pairs of differently sized sleeves to ensure a comfortable fit. Though the earphone itself looks like a standard earbud with a wart growing from one side, it looks stylish and modern once it's in your ear. Beyond providing excellent sound and passive noise isolation, the included earphones are also a necessary component for Sony's active noise-cancellation feature (see the Features section for details).
The headline feature on the NW-S705F is its active noise-cancellation. Until recently, active noise-cancellation technology was reserved solely for large, over-ear headphones (such as the Bose Quiet Comfort series) capable of concealing the necessary circuitry. Active noise-canceling circuitry is still too large to fit inside something as small as an earbud, so manufacturers must either place the circuitry in a breakout box (as with the JVC HA-NCX77 earphones) or place the circuitry with the body of the MP3 player. Sony chose the latter option with the NW-S705F and did a remarkable job.