Sony's network audio streamer should be hitting store shelves soon. First unveiled at the January Consumer Electronics Show--and no stranger to--the VGF-WA1 is the baby of Sony's VAIO PC division, not the consumer electronics side of the company. While we've seen similar Wi-Fi boom boxes in the past--the comes to mind--the VGF-WA1 is the first I've seen with a rechargeable battery, so you can go truly wireless (for up to 4 hours, according to Sony). In addition to streaming a variety of audio files (MP3, AAC, WAV, and, of course, Sony's own proprietary ATRAC3 format) from a networked Windows XP/Vista PC, the VGF-WA1 can also play compatible Web radio stations straight from the Internet. A line-in port lets the WA1 double as a set of speakers for any audio source (such as a portable music player), and the unit smartly includes an alarm clock as well.
Both the black (VGF-WA1/B) and white (VGR-WA1/W) versions of the Sony VAIO VGF-WA1 will retail for $350--admittedly, a pretty high premium for the built-in speakers and portability. Sony reps tell me that final production units for the U.S. market are set to arrive in "a few more days." That means we'll soon have a sample for hands-on testing--and that the product should be entering the retail channel very soon. In the meantime, at least one lukewarm review of the Japanese version of the VGF-WA1 has already appeared online. With any luck, the North American model will have updated firmware that addresses some of the issues mentioned therein.