Oh, sweet irony. When we first saw the Sony X series in our hands, it was beneath Charing Cross Tube station. Now we've got one in-house and the entire London Underground network has gone on strike. How charming.
Anyhoo, now available for around £229 with 32GB of storage -- down £50 from the RRP -- our criticism regarding value has been called into question. And now we're not underground, we can test out Web browsage, BBC iPlayer support and sound quality.
Sony Walkmans have supported iPlayer downloads for many moons, and on this player's OLED screen they're unquestionably beautiful. Unless Mitchell and Webb are on, in which case you might be better off with just audio. Syncing requires Windows Media Player, so Mac users are shafted for transferring downloads for now. But watching The Apprentice was as comfortable as you can be while cringing yourself inside out, and the X series is easily the best Walkman for watching iPlayer to date.
New to the Walkman is Wi-Fi and Web browsing. But the experience is poor -- akin to browsing on an old mobile phone, thanks to the shockingly outdated Access Web browser, terrible page rendering and a cramped screen. Zooming out of a page, for example, turns all text into lines of unreadable dots, and pictures later on will illustrate this. It's so far from impressive it hardly seems worth the effort, and is certainly a world away from the iPod touch.
But another new feature redeems the player considerably: the YouTube application. A slick interface with full search capabilities, thumbnails, good-quality video and seamless navigation make ploughing through YouTube's content simple and fun. Clips play in full screen, and loaded quickly in our tests over Wi-Fi.
As for sound quality, it comes as no breaking news that Sony is capable of producing some of the best-sounding music players on the market. It's largely helped by the headphones it ships with its most premium models, which are several steps of quality above what anyone else provides in the box, Apple included. They join the terrific performance the player itself is capable of -- which we test exclusively with lossless audio only, through our reference Denon D5000 headphones -- to make, once again, the statement that Sony audio is among the world's leading. Note that gapless playback is not supported, but iTunes Plus downloads are.
The shortcomings of the player's Web browser is an issue when Sony so evidently wants to take a slice of the iPod touch's cake, as is a lack of new features over, say, the A828 Walkman. But with 32GB of storage now selling on Amazon for £229, plus the amazing screen, smashing YouTube integration, iPlayer download support, built-in noise-cancelling and such an admirable emphasis on sound quality and performance, we feel much more confident in advising it as an alternative to the iPod nano, and the touch as well -- if apps, games and Web browsing aren't important to you.
Check out our initial hands-on for a look at other features along with photos, and check our photos relating to this story over the next few pages.