The E Series is the latest line of Sony's MP3 players. They may look like a glorified USB drive or a trendy girl's lipstick, but the models bearing the E moniker have a three-line colour dot-matrix screen and support for a wide range of audio formats.
We're looking at the NW-E013, but the 2GB NW-E015 and the 4GB NW-E016 models are identical players. The only difference is memory capacity and colour (Sony likes to give every capacity a different name for some reason).
There's a distinct ruggedness to the E013, thanks to its solid build quality. The glossy finish is complimented by attractive silver trimmings and soft-touch buttons. It's one of those players that doesn't feel like it would shatter if accidentally dropped.
The left and right navigational buttons are the only controls mounted on the front and feel a little out of place -- at first we didn't even acknowledge they were buttons.
Controls are a little fiddly, but only as a result of being stuck on a player of this size. There's also a cap-covered USB plug -- very handy if you use multiple computers to add music, but Sony still won't allow drag and drop media on to its players, rendering this feature slightly pointless.
It will charge through the USB though, and you'll get three hours' playback from a three-minute charge.
The three-line colour display is nicely implemented and looks like it floats below the surface of the player's casing. Song and artist info is displayed alongside colour album art, though art is restricted to a space less than 10mm by 10mm.
The main menu uses the whole screen to display five larger option icons. These can be cycled through using the forward and back buttons. There's a slight lag when navigating all menus, but apart from that, navigating the player is intuitive and pleasant.
Sony has done a good job at supporting a broad range of audio formats, including MP3, unprotected AAC and WMA, ATRAC and WAV.
We're sad not to see support for OGG, but AAC support -- the format used on the iTunes Store -- is superior to MP3 at lower bit rates, meaning more music can be stored on the player and at a higher quality. It also means you can listen to the new DRM-free tracks from iTunes.
There's no FM radio though, or true gapless playback. Fans of live music albums may be disappointed at the split-second gap between tracks.