Sony's B-series Walkman is tiny and cheap, and is clearly designed for on-the-go use with its built-in USB interface and simple design. While it offers a good range of features, such as an integrated FM tuner and voice recording, it's not laden down with frills. The sound quality is good, though not spectacular
Sony's B series NWZ-B133 -- also sold as the NWZ-B133F, NWZ-B135, NWZ-N135F and plenty of other names depending on the colour and GB size -- is a simple drag and drop USB stick-styled entry-level Walkman.
If full colour screens, video playback and stereo Bluetooth just aren't you thing, or if you're after a secondary MP3 player perhaps for the gym, Sony's B series could be for you. It's especially well-priced at £29.
Like the E013 and many other models before it, the B133 rocks the I've-got-a-USB-socket-fixed-to-my-body factor. This means you need no cables to hook it up to any PC or Mac -- just pull off the cap and push it into a free socket.
The only issue here is if there isn't much space around your only available socket -- if there's another device next to it, or if the port's in an inaccessible place, you may struggle to get the player to fit. And there's no extension cable provided so you'll need to buy one.
But once your music's loaded onto the device, it can all be navigated easily using simple front-mounted controls. There's a small LCD screen, but it's bright and crisp. If you struggle to read small text, however, you may find yourself wincing uncomfortably.
In line with being a dead simple player, it plays just MP3 and WMA files -- no AAC and not even WAV. A shame in a world where SanDisk sells a £20 player that supports MP3, WMA, Audible, FLAC and OGG.
Protected WMA content from the likes of Napster and 7digital is supported when the player is synced through Windows Media Player. All other content can either be managed with WMP or by dragging and dropping through Windows Explorer or Finder on OS X.
A built-in microphone allows you to record voice notes as WAV files, and a modest selection of audio enhancement settings -- including a custom five-band equaliser -- will help you get a more customised sound (but we advise your first step to better audio is getting some decent earphones).
Incidentally, the B133F and B135F models also feature FM radio reception as well as all the features mentioned above, whereas the B133 and B135 models do not. If these model numbers are confusing you, trust us when we say we feel your pain.
Simplicity has been the key factor behind the development of the B series, and the lack of snazzy extras like a colour screen and album artwork (as seen on the E013) make this a player that's keen on being cheap rather than being fun.
It's simple to use mainly because there's very little to do aside from browsing artists and hitting play. Menus are labelled clearly and you can browse music by playlist, artist, album, genre and year of release. At times it feels a little sluggish when browsing through lists of artists, and the other lists are annoyingly choppy to scroll through.
Sound quality is fine and will no doubt be perfectly acceptable for everyone looking for such a cheap player. Again, we highly recommend upgrading the bundled earphones to perhaps some Sennheisers to radically increase audio quality.
Unfortuantely there's no gapless playback, so live albums experience a slight pause between tracks (something the iPods do not suffer from), and there's no bookmarking for long songs, such as podcasts or audiobooks. That said, audiobooks from Audible -- one of the largest downloadable audiobook retailers -- aren't supported anyway, so perhaps it's not a huge issue.
From a full charge you'll get about 16 hours of battery life, and if you're in a hurry then you can get three hours of playback from a quick three minute charge.
It's not an exciting player, but it's well-priced, easy to use, pleasantly designed and it sounds great once you've upgraded the bundled earphones.
Compared to last year's E013 that requires you use the horrendous SonicStage software, and the recent iRiver T7, it's a simple player we can't really complain about. But consider the SanDisk Sansa Clip if you want more features for the same price.
Edited by Cristina Psomadakis