The Sony NWZ-A820 series Walkman brings together a killer combination of excellent sound quality, streaming Bluetooth audio, MPEG-4 video playback, and unbeatable battery life.
CNET Reviews staff
CNET Networks/Corinne Schulze
The bottom of the Sony NWZ-A820/A720 Walkman offers a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and a proprietary USB dock connection. If you lose Sony's unique USB cable, expect that a replacement won't come cheap.
The Sony NWZ-A820 graphic user interface will look familiar to users of the NWZ-A818 or NWZ-S615F, except for the notable addition of a Bluetooth icon in the upper right hand corner. Icons for shuffle, music, playlists, music, video, and search are fairly intuitive. Even while browsing the main menu, Sony keeps the currently playing song or video information visible on the bottom edge of the 2.4-inch screen. Placement of dedicated volume controls on the right edge of the NWZ-A820 conform naturally to the hand.
The Sony NWZ-A820 comes packaged with premium EX earphones (including extra silicone sleeves), a detachable kickstand, and a proprietary USB cable. Not pictured are a typical 90 days parts and labor warranty, an a refreshingly complete instruction booklet, and CD that includes optional software such as Windows Media Player, Napster, ATRAC MP3 conversion utility, and Sony's own media manager utility (don't worry, it's not Sonic Stage).
The weakest link in most MP3 players (including the mighty iPod) is the substandard headphones they come bundled with. Sony has a long track record creating high quality headphones, and the EX series earphones that come bundled with the NWZ-A820 are no exception. Sure, the earphones look a little odd, but the sound quality they produce is rich with detail, and great on the bottom end typically lacking in bundled buds. On their own, a comparable pair of Sony EX earphones will set you back $60 or more.
With its 2.4-inch QVGA screen, the NWZ-A820 is one of the most video-worthy MP3 players Sony has ever released. To ease hands-free viewing, Sony includes a small stand that attaches to the Sony NWZ-A820 through a loophole included on the right side of the player. To prop up the NWZ-A820, the plastic stand plugs into a small hole in back of the player.
Unlike the rounded shape of its predecessor, the NWZ-A818, the NWZ-A820 Walkman is unapologetically rectangular. A square play/pause/enter button is surrounded by a sqaure 4-way direction pad and flanked on both sides by Back and Option keys no larger than grains of rice. Holding down the Back button will take you to the home screen, while holding the Option button will power on the Sony NWZ-A820.
Unlike the identical-looking NWZ-A720 series, the NWZ-A820 has built-in streaming Bluetooth audio. Using the intuitive Bluetooth setup on the Sony NWZ-A820 lets you stream audio to any Bluetooth-compatible headphones or receivers. However, don't expect Bluetooth perks such as file transfer and incoming call detection.
At just 0.25 inche thick, the Sony NWZ-A820 is barely detectable in those distressed designer jeans. In fact, if you're using the Sony NWZ-A820 with a pair of Bluetooth wireless headphones, it doesn't much matter where you put it.
The right edge of the Sony NWZ-A820 includes a volume rocker switch, a Bluetooth activation button, a textured hold switch, and a loophole for attaching the included kickstand or lanyard (not included). When Bluetooth audio streaming is active, the top right edge of the Sony NWZ-A820 Walkman glows blue.