Note: Although, we reviewed an X-series with pre-release firmware, ultimately, this had little bearing on our conclusion.
At 97mm tall, 53mm wide and 11mm thick, the X-series Walkman sits somewhere between theand the much larger . The front and the back are finished in a deep, shiny black offset, strangely, by a sparkle effect. Around the edges, the X-series has a crackled granite-style finish which, although aesthetically dubious, certainly improves the hand grip several fold.
As with, a solitary home button adorns the front, just below the impossible to keep clean screen. The 3.5mm headphone sits on the top edge along with an array of buttons for play/pause, forward and reverse. A volume rocker, the noise-cancellation switch and a reset pin make their home along the right, while on the back there's a hold switch. Although we like the look of the X, it lacks the come hither sexiness of Apple's iPod Touch and polarises opinions thanks to the granite-you-like finish.
Fire up the 3-inch touchscreen though and these complaints are melted away by the amazing electronic brilliance of the OLED screen. When viewing the screen dead on, colours pop out with a vigour that would embarrass Snap and Crackle, contrast is brilliant and blacks were blacker than a black hole. On a bumpy bus or rickety train the OLED screen comes into its own, with colour, crispness and brightness remaining spot on even at the most obtuse angles.
This makes the X-series a great device for viewing movies — of the MPEG, AVC and WMV variety only — while in transit. It also makes the X a brilliant device for viewing photos or, more likely, your wallpapers on. Unfortunately, the Sony doesn't much like progressive JPEGs and, oddly, it can't zoom in on high resolution photos, although the scaling is impressive.
While the interface is merely a touchscreen evolution of the ones seen in Walkmans past, the screen is nicely responsive to human touch. Scrolling is smooth and, like the iPod Touch/iPhone, bounces and pings neatly when you reach the end of a list. Check outto see the album scroller which, if you flick quickly enough, will send your album art flying into space like the preamble at the beginning of Star Wars.
Since the banishment of Sony's SonicStage software to the Abu Ghraib of hell, all of the company's Walkmans have been drag-and-drop affairs for music, video and images. Unfortunately, with the current firmware, this renders the X-series unplayable whenever it's tethered up via USB to a PC. Worse though is that once you unplug the X, it's forgotten the last song or video you were in, let alone your position in it — something even could manage.
For those wanting a bit of musical variety or sport there's a built-in FM radio. The lovely iPhone-esque frequency scroller has non-adjustable 0.05MHz increments, which makes manual station finding in interference prone environments a trek to rival Scott of the Antarctic's.