Sony NWZ-S639F Walkman review: Sony NWZ-S639F Walkman

The Good Sound quality; smart design; good price; SensMe feature; BBC iPlayer support; crisp screen; drag-and-drop file management; podcast integration; great battery life.

The Bad No stereo Bluetooth; no gapless playback; DivX or Xvid support would've been superb.

The Bottom Line Its older, larger, more expensive A-series brethren offers wireless audio and a whopping screen, but for ease-of-use, sound quality and sheer enjoyment to use, the S639F is a terrific choice. BBC iPlayer support is an awesome bonus for UK users

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8.3 Overall

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Sony's NWZ-S639F is the 16GB model of the Walkman S series, sitting alongside the 8GB NWZ-S638F. The S series is a more affordable Walkman than the flagship A range.

The S639F costs £129 and is on sale now.

When it wants to, Sony can design products so beautiful you'll want to marry them. The S639 is a product evidently designed by the very artisans we wish Sony would deploy to its phone division, with slick looks and a metallic finish.

Button layout is intuitive and easy to use, even with larger fingers. There's a physical lock switch on one side, rocker controls for volume adjustment and a bottom-mounted 3.5mm headphone socket. Our only gripe over the design: a proprietary USB cable.

A super-sharp 51mm (2-inch) 240x320-pixel display adds the finishing touches to this player, bringing out superb life and colour from menus and photographs and making videos look exciting and vibrant.

But first, critical specifications. The S639F supports MP3, WMA (protected and unprotected), AAC (unprotected only) and WAV. We're sad not to see FLAC or OGG support here, particularly after just reviewing Samsung's FLAC- and OGG-loving YP-Q1. High-quality H.264 and MPEG-4 SP video is supported, however, as well as JPEG photos.

The player has full support for podcasts with a dedicated button in the main menu, and Sony's bundled desktop software does a good job of automatically downloading new shows and syncing them. It's just a shame the rest of the software is rather unintuitive, but you can alternatively use Windows Media Player for file management. Or you can simply drag and drop files via Windows Explorer or Finder in Mac OS X.

Loosely comparable to the new Genius feature on the iPods, the Walkman has a dynamic playlist function called SensMe. It analyses the musical content of each of your songs and puts them in playlists such as 'Energetic', 'Relax' and 'Extreme'. It surprised us with how well it works, and it's a killer feature. We forgive it for putting a Metallica song in 'Classical' only because it really was a one-off.