Despite the fact that the iPod and iPhone has grown to a ridiculous level of popularity, it doesn’t mean that they’re the best choice for listening to music. Some will wholeheartedly argue this, while I’ll flat out tell them they’re wrong. Why? Both are fragile devices that are heavy, cumbersome and require you to use a set of headphones. Ultimately, it’s not practical and nor does it provide me with that streamlined feeling I like to have if I’m taking a jog, jumping rope or lifting weights. If you want an audio player that’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen, you should also read our review of the Sony Eclipse media player, that craves sun. Compare this with our review of the solar powered MP3 player to decide which is the best MP3 player for you.
Last year I reviewed Sony’s W252s. If you recall they pretty much answered my above quandary. However, they had a few shortcomings that lead Sony to issue a new version last month. The result? A lighter, easier to use portable audio player, the W263. If you want to compare this with another portable listening device, you should also read our review of the Motorola SLVR with iTunes.
This iteration has done away with the magnets, which have been replaced with a simple on/off switch. The magnets, which served as power switched (off when attached, on when not), proved impractical, since many a people found a simple jolt in the bag could separate the headphones and thus draining the battery.
They’ve also reduced the weight (1.6 vs 1.2oz) and size making them more comfortable and less of interference when performing any sort of rigorous activity. However, I still had problems with positioning the buds at the correct angle to optimize audio response and more importantly bass. Sony does include a few different ear bud sizes, but your stuck with one pair of headphones with no options to upgrade. And speaking of which, the hardware from the previous iteration has remained the same, which is 5+5 watts of power and 13.5mm drivers.
The W263 are relatively bare bones in the feature department. Fortunately, in this case, that’s a good thing. Adding music is as simple as plugging it in to your computer’s USB port and dragging and dropping music files directly from iTunes to the player. The player itself boasts the same controls as the previous iteration, which include shuffle, play, pause, track skip and volume control. A small LED battery light changes from green to orange to red to indicate remaining battery life. A full charge takes 1.5 hours, producing 8 hours of playback, where as a 3 minute charge can provide enough just for up to 60 minutes of playback. I fully charged my W263 and haven’t seen the battery life deviate from the specs. If you want to check out another model of the Sony walkman players, check out our Sony nwz w252 w series walkman mp3 player review.
Sonically, I’m more than pleased with the W263. I received the Meb Keflezighi special edition version of the player. I loaded up the 2GB of storage (there is a 4GB version, though it’s not available in the special edition) with a variety of music, got the buds warmed up with a few hours of music and then cranked them during my workouts. The spectrum of sound is not the widest, though at loudest volume they held their own and didn’t distort. As already mentioned I had to reposition them to get the most bass response from the buds, but just as fast as I did that they would revert to their original position and reduce the lows. This is largely due to the shape of my ears and partially the band that connects the two ear pieces together. To check out one of the high-end audio pieces, read the Hifimans take on portable sound the hm 901 portable audio player preview.
Bottom line: A water resistant all-in-one MP3 player that will surely satiate any workout freaks music needs while in the exercise trenches.