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Sony Walkman NW-S705F review: Sony Walkman NW-S705F

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The Good The Sony NW-S705F Walkman is a beautiful player that offers active noise-cancellation, FM radio, long-haul battery life, and high quality earphones.

The Bad If you lose Sony's earphones, you'll lose the NW-S705F's noise-canceling feature as well. Transferring music requires Sony's SonicStage software and a lot of patience.

The Bottom Line Despite its small capacity, the Sony NW-S705F delivers a lot of bang for the buck with ahead-of-its-time noise-cancellation and a 50-hour battery life. If you can tolerate Sony's software long enough to load your favorite music, you won't be disappointed.

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7.7 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
Editor's note: The Sony NW-S700F series includes the NW-S703F (1GB) and NW-S705F (2GB) players. While this review focuses on the NW-S705F, the NW-S703F is identical except for storage capacity and color.

Sony has a long, if spotted, tradition of creating portable audio devices with rich sound and unmatched design. The flash-based NW-S705F picks up the design torch, filling an interesting niche between Sony's Flash-based budget player, the Sony NW-E005, and the hard drive-based Sony NW-A1200. The NW-S700F series offer 1GB (the NW-S703F) and 2GB (NW-S705F) capacities that retail around $169 and $199, respectively. The Sony NW-S705F is a competitor in both price and features to Apple's iPod Nano. While the Nano can boast about its higher storage capacity and iTunes integration, Sony's noise-cancellation function and fantastic battery life make the NW-S705F ideal for air travel and people with noisy jobs, or subway commutes.

Sony is one of few companies capable of competing with--and occasionally surpassing--Apple's design sensibilities and attention to detail. Truth be told, the NW-S705F is a sexier player than the iPod Nano with similar dimensions (3 inches wide, 1 inch tall, with a thickness that varies from 0.25 inch to 0.5 inch) The metal along the edges of the player adds an luxurious-feeling heft and also helps prevent wear and tear. While the tiny menu buttons are a bit too discreet for our liking, they work well and are unobtrusive. Play, pause, and volume controls are all located on the same four-way rocker on the front of the NW-S705F; and track, skip, and scan functions are controlled by an interesting spring-loaded shuttle wheel located below the headphone jack. The shuttle wheel can be used in two modes: one that skips between songs and another that skips between albums.

The Sony NW-S705F's unique screen doesn't fare quite as well. The OLED three-line display measures exactly 0.25 inch high and 1 inch wide, and although it displays tiny versions of full-color album art in playback mode, text appears in a thin, white font probably best for younger eyes. The screen brightness is not adjustable and appears somewhat muted, as though it were being viewed through sunglasses.

The earphones included with the NW-S705F sound quite good and come with three pairs of differently sized sleeves to ensure a comfortable fit. Though the earphone itself looks like a standard earbud with a wart growing from one side, it looks stylish and modern once it's in your ear. Beyond providing excellent sound and passive noise isolation, the included earphones are also a necessary component for Sony's active noise-cancellation feature (see the Features section for details).

Sony NW-S705F Walkman
The earphones included with the Sony NW-S705F Walkman are integral to its active noise-cancellation feature.

The headline feature on the NW-S705F is its active noise-cancellation. Until recently, active noise-cancellation technology was reserved solely for large, over-ear headphones (such as the Bose Quiet Comfort series) capable of concealing the necessary circuitry. Active noise-canceling circuitry is still too large to fit inside something as small as an earbud, so manufacturers must either place the circuitry in a breakout box (as with the JVC HA-NCX77 earphones) or place the circuitry with the body of the MP3 player. Sony chose the latter option with the NW-S705F and did a remarkable job.

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