Sony never got too much play on this site since Sony locked all of their MP3 players into their proprietary media player SonicStage. I love their designs, sound quality, and battery life but SonicStage was so unbelievably terrible it kept me from picking up any of their players. Sony finally wised up and joined the rest of the portable music world making their devices MTP, thus being compatible with most media players and music services.
Sony will soon release the A820, an upgraded version with Bluetooth, larger screen, and larger capacities. However, the A810 should not be pushed aside; it is still a very viable MP3 player that will still keep up with anything in its class. It is a great choice for people not needing all the bells and whistles of its newer sibling.
- Quick Look
- Size: 1 3/4 x 3 1/2 x 3/8″ (44.5 x 88 x 9.6mm)
- Screen: 2” 320×240 262k Color
- Capacities: 2GB ( $120), 4GB ($150), 8GB ($200)
- Audio Support: MP3, WMA, AAC, PCM
- Video Support: MPEG 4, M4V
- Rated Battery: 33 Hours Audio / 8 Hours Video
- Photo Support: JPG
- Transfer Protocol: MTP
- Other Features: Premium Headphones
- Complete Specs
Inside the box you will find a proprietary USB cable, premium headphones, headphone extension cable, dock insert, software CD, and the player. There are a few official Sony accessories for the A810 including a dock insert, Bluetooth adapter (WLA-NWB1), silicon case, and leather case. There are a few third party cases, silicon, leather and other materials.
The included headphones are very impressive for an in the box headphone. You would have to spend better than $100+ on headphones for an improvement. Sony designed and engineered these headphones specifically for this player, some sound settings allow you to specify if you are listening to the headphones with or without the headphone extension. They may be slightly lacking in bass, but they are very clear and well balanced.
The earbuds fit inside your ear and come with small, medium, and large inserts, however they are not very good isolators which is not a bad thing but matter of preference. The cable is a J-style where one wire is longer than the other and without the extension they are about a foot long from the split. Adding the extension will give you another 24”.
The design it typical Sony style and feel; something that has changed very little in the last decade. This is not a bad thing since it is still the same rugged and solid design you would expect to find on Sony’s products. Button tolerances are tight and depress with a precision typic
al of high end electronics.
The player is constructed mostly of a powder coated aluminum which is very resistant to scratching. Laying it on hard surfaces will not scratch the player. The outer rim of the player is a chrome-plastic; the plastic is a very hard plastic and could be mistaken for true chrome. The screen is made of a hard scratch resistant plastic. What is really nice about the screen is that it is slightly inlayed into the face of the player so that it will avoid scratching to the plastic screen if set face down on a hard surface. Overall the A810 is a typically well designed Sony.
The 2” 320×240 262k color screen is bright, quick, and accurate. Display angles are near perfect 180 degree viewing angles (although the glare off the screen may impede viewing depending on lighting conditions). Video is smooth, fast, and colors are vivid. Screens in general have reached near maturity at this size and resolution. While I have seen better, it is still quality and I am sure you would be happy with it.
Software / Media Transfer
I have always liked their MP3 players but their previous software, SonicStage, made Sony’s MP3 player practically unsuitable. Thankfully they have ditch SS and adopted a standard MTP protocol making it compatible with nearly all media players and music services.
Included on the software disc are Windows Media Player 11, Napster with 15 day trial, and an MP3 conversion utility. The conversion utility is easy but not really needed since most media players including WMP11 will convert to MP3.
Sony rarely releases firmware updates so don’t expect to fumble around with messy updates. Why don’t they release new firmware? Well basically because they do it right the first time and release a player that is ready for consumers. Other companies should take note.
The S810’s interface is not simple but it is intuitive. It will take you a quick minute to lean the various functions and what all the buttons, but once you are up and running it is a very powerful interface with everything only a few button presses away.
Music navigation is fairly standard Song, Artist, Album, Genre, ect, style hierarchical browsing. But Sony offers a nice little twist with an alphabet index at the top. By pressing to the right you can scroll though the top this index jumping you to the corresponding place in the long list of music. When I say alphabet index, it shows for example “A-D”, “E-H”, ect. The spacing adjusts dynamically for the length of the list.
In addition to the alphabet index at the top of the music navigation, on the home screen there is an “initial search” this shows an entire alphabet for artist, album, and song. You select a letter and it will take you to that part of your library. I am a little confused as to why this exists when it may have been better just to put the entire library at the top of the navigation instead of the index.
The batter life is rated at a phenomenal 33 hours audio and 8 hours video. The audio did stand up close to the rated coming in at over 28 hours. For video the player consistently played around 6 to 7 hours of video.
One really impressive thing that the A810 does is it instantly turns on and does not suffer from battery drain (at least not noticeably). When I say it’s instant on, it is really instant on. The second you touch the button it is on almost as if it was anticipating your finger touching it- very impressive.
The picture viewing function is very standard. Photos are viewed as thumbnails are can be organized with folders. Photos can be oriented horizontally, vertically right, and vertically left. Slide shows can be played with the intervals adjustable. Nothing much to see here… move along.
Playlists / Playback
I am disappointed that there are not on the go playlists, not even a single quick list. You still can make playlists with any MTP based media player.
The A810 is not suitable for audiobook listeners. Scanning works very slow and it would be painful to scan though an hour long track even ten minutes at that. Also to mention, there are no bookmarks. Update: When paused the A810 will scan though tracks at about 1 min per second making a little more suitable for audiobooks.
On the main screen in the top right there is a shuffle feature that will allow you to do a standard shuffle all and a “Time Machine Shuffle”. This feature is not impressive. You select it and it simply chooses a year and starts playing something from the year it selects. When it’s playing that selection it stops.
EU & Sound Enhancements
The A810 has a solid 5-band EQ along with a “clear bass” enhancement (which is just bass boost). The EQ only goes up to +3 and down to -3 in single integer increments per band. In addition to the EQ the player has a “VST(Surroud)” feature that will allow you to add various sound enhancements including “Studio”, “Live”, “Club”, “Arena”, “Matrix”, and “Karaoke” . They sound unnatural to me, but they are there if that is your thing.
There are a few sound enhancements one similar to BBE or SRS-WOW called DSEE (Sound Enhance). Like similar technologies it will compensate for lossy music. This actually works pretty well and comparable to BBE. There is another sound enhancement called Clear Stereo, this is specifically designed for the supplied headphones. I don’t know the technology behind it, but it noticeably improves the sound stage. What is interesting is that you need to specify if you are using the headphone extension or not.
I find the sound quality to be exceptionally good; the player is well balanced thought the spectrum and can be compared with the higher end MP3 players. It sound much like the Sony HD5, which was one of my top picks for sound quality. If you want to get picky, I find the bass to be slightly cloudy. Be cautioned, the player is a bit underpowered for beefier headphones.
The 30 frames per second looks very smooth. Sony does not include a conversation utility but that is not a problem since there are dozens of utilities already available to convert. Since the A810 is able to playback H.264 M4V files, any iPod conversion utility will work. Additionally, there are many PSP conversion utilities out there that will convert to for the A810 as well- you just need to set it to the right 320×240 size. On top of all this conversion utility goodness, any readily available video podcast in M4V are ready to play right from download. All in all, there is plenty available content that does not need to be converted and if it does there are plenty of utilities to convert them.
Sony has renewed my faith in their MP3 player line with this player and the main reason is the death of SonicStage and the move towards a standard MTP device. There is a lot of good in the A810 including great sound, tight design, and great battery life. I do however really miss the inclusion of an on the go playlist.
Buy the A810 if you are looking for amazing sound right out of the box, you do not need to upgrade the headphones unless you are a hardcore headphone snob. I do recommend the A810 even as an alternative for someone who does not need all the features (mainly Bluetooth) of the newer A820.
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- Instant Start Up
- Great battery life
- Solid Design
- Excellent sound quality
- Great sounding premium headphones
- Nice User Interface
- Solid Firmware
- No on the go playlists
- Not audiobook friendly (Slow scan, no bookmarks)
- Volume Lock – Lacks power for heavy duty headphones