The Sony NWZ-A720 Walkman series is a subtle evolution of the NWZ-A810 series we enjoyed in 2007. This year, Sony is treating us with a larger screen and a more assertive design, offered in 4GB ($149), 8GB ($199), and 16GB ($299).
Given Sony's track record with curvy, rounded designs, the Sony NWZ-A720 is refreshingly square. Measuring 2 inches by 3.75 inches by 0.4 inch, it has a metallic body and a 2.4-inch screen. The NWZ-A720 is a little larger than its predecessor, but it maintains a slim, pocketable profile. The circular four-way navigation pad found on last year's Sony NWZ-A810 has turned into a more solid-feeling square on the A720, flanked by two small option and menu buttons. All other buttons are confined to the right side of the player, including a rocker switch for volume control and a hold switch. The bottom of the A720 Walkman features a headphone output and proprietary USB connection.
The Sony NWZ-A720 is stocked with features, including music, photo, and video playback. On the audio end of things, Sony is continuing its support for MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV, and DRM-protected subscription music files. In typical Sony style, the restrained design of the music playback screen betrays the awe-inspiring music enhancement technology working behind the scenes, such as a 5-band EQ, Clear Bass, Clear Stereo, DSEE high-frequency restoration, and dynamic normalization.
With its 2.4-inch QVGA LCD and excellent video battery life, the Sony NWZ-A720 is the most video-worthy Walkman we've seen. Sony offers limited video format compatibility, however, including MPEG-4 and H.264 sized at a strict 320x240 ratio. Fortunately, the popularity of the iPod and video podcasts has made the QVGA MPEG-4 file format one of the most abundant on the Web.