The E453 is one of three MP3 players in Sony's Walkman E series, differing mainly in terms of storage capacity. Whereas the E453 is a 4GB model, the E454 is an 8GB player and the E455 packs in 16GB of storage space.
The E453 offers a pleasing design and is available in black, blue, green, pink and red versions. Measuring 44 by 95 by 10mm, it's slim, so it'll happily slide into your pocket, even if it's already stuffed full of mobile phones, cameras and other tech. It weighs a mere 58g too.
Around the edges, there's a port for connecting the E453 to your computer via USB, a headphones socket, a hold switch and volume keys. The screen measures 2 inches diagonally and has a 240x320-pixel resolution. It's bright enough so that you'll be able to see what's going on in the various menus easily.
Videos look sharp on the tiny display. But the small size of the screen means you probably wouldn't want to watch a full movie on this device.
Note that the screen isn't touch-sensitive -- you have to navigate the interface using physical buttons. We don't mind too much, though, because the controls are pretty simple. There's a four-way navigation button with a play/pause key in the centre, and 'back' and 'home' buttons to either side.
Finding your way around the basic menus is easy enough, but it can be tricky to see what's going on once your tunes start playing -- the icons that show whether you've paused a track and so on are very small, and the playback bar is a slim green line that's quite hard to see. These are minor gripes, though -- you'll quickly get the hang of using this player.
If you fancy letting the Walkman take the reins, the SensMe feature plays songs based on whether they're classed as energetic, relaxed, upbeat or extreme. The E453 decides which songs fall into which category. Another option chooses tunes based on the time of day. SensMe is a worthwhile feature, but we can see many users ignoring it in favour of simply rattling through music themselves.
Another interesting feature is the 'karaoke mode'. Essentially, it uses some equaliser trickery to subdue the vocals of any song, so you can sing over the top. The E453 also supports LRC files, which show lyrics on the screen in time with the music.
The E453's sound quality is entirely acceptable. All of our favourite tunes were faithfully reproduced through this player. There's support for an impressive range of audio formats too, including MP3, WMA, AAC and WAV files. MPEG-4, H.264 and WMV videos are also supported.
Getting your tunes onto the E453 is really easy -- you can just plug it into your computer via USB and drag and drop the files. You can also organise your songs into folders on your computer and browse those folders on the player. That's handy for organising your own playlists.
Sony includes its own software for getting music onto the device, but we weren't able to test it out. Most people will probably prefer to drag and drop their tunes anyway.
Compared to using an iPod and iTunes, the process of getting music onto the E453 is simpler and allows you more freedom. But, unlike with the iPod touch, there's no way to download new music from the E453 directly, and, although there's a built-in FM radio, there's nothing else in the way of wireless connectivity. There are no apps either.
The Sony Walkman NWZ-E453 isn't as slick or pretty as an iPod, but it's dead easy to use, extremely slim and highly affordable. We reckon it's a worthy alternative to an iPod if the taste of Apple makes you gag.
Edited by Charles Kloet