[Hardware Review] Sony NWZ-W252 Metal Gear Solid Walkman

Looking to inject a bit more Snake into your workout? Oh, Sony's got you covered, and they've got a little surprise in there too.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: August 1, 2010
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Sony's carried the whole workout theme well, packing the unit with a water-resistant pair of in-ear closed earbuds that seal out noise and offer solid range. Though there are actually three pairs of screw-on earplugs provided, we found the default ones to be more than satisfactory. Because the drivers sit so far into and up against the ear canal, we were able to get plenty of distortion-free bass and clear, unfettered mids and highs even at full volume. It should be noted that this is a pretty loud player, so there's a bit of sound leakage when having them in, though something like a plane engine drone or subway tunnel screech will be plenty drowned out.

Given the impressive battery life and fullness of the actual audio quality, coupled with the ease of actually getting stuff onto and off of the Walkman, we were a little surprised to find that we couldn't come up with any major qualms with any of it. Playback is snappy and the aural interface does a decent job of allowing you to move around various folders stored within the MUSIC directory. A screen -- even a breakout one -- will always trump an interface like this, but Sony has done a damn fine job of making it easy to at least jump around with minimal fuss and the ZAPPIN addition wasn't nearly as gimmicky after some extended use. Because of the number of rather large electronic music sets we had, having to listen from the start would have been a huge pain, and ZAPPIN paid dividends when we threw a bunch of live sessions on the W252.

Even upon hours of playback, the soft rubber of the dome-shaped earbuds were completely comfortable. This is especially surprising considering nearly everything after a few minutes ends up hurting our ears. Yeah, we're all sensitive/wussy like that, but no complaints here. Support of WMA, MP3, AAC, ATRAC and DRM for subscription services like Napster (via Windows Media Player) only sweetens the deal. Even video files we'd accidentally copied over got ripped for audio, which we didn't expect.

[Final Thoughts]
It's pretty clear Sony has taken great pains to climb out of the hole they themselves dug around the turn of the centry. The DRM-encrusted interfaces of years past are gone (in fact, DRM is supported purely by iTunes/WMP at this point), and the drag-and-drop ease trumps players that are married to a particular kind of software (yes, Apple, we're talking about you). It's not likely the W252 is going to dethrone the kings of digital music at this point, but Sony's embracing of an entirely open yet flexible interface for allowing the device to do what it's supposed to is, frankly, inspiring.

The link to Metal Gear Solid here isn't huge, but the exclusive camo paint scheme and pre-loaded tracks are more than enough reason to opt for this version over the others. The price -- just $60 -- is the same anyway, so why not go for the one with a few extra (and exclusive) tracks? This is a limited edition version, by the way, so it might be good to jump in early. A word of warning, though: if you buy the W252 from Sony Style, you'll be able to take your pick from the various colors without a hit to your wallet. Elsewhere online (like, say, Amazon), the MGS version is commanding a price that's upwards of double the normal version, so shop smart.

We'll be absolutely honest here: we would never have considered getting the NWZ-W252 had Sony not kicked over a demo unit (which we've already sent back). Now, we're seriously considering dropping the cash for it, almost exclusively because the things are a huge trip tool. It's doubtful Sony wants to hear that, but for sheer ease of throwing on some music and laying down, this is by far the best marriage of comfort, sound quality and portability we've seen. Now we're itching to see if anything can rival it.

Verdict: Buy It!
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