Sony’s S610 is their low man on the totem pole in the new line of video flash players sporting 2, 4, and 8GB capacities. This is last year’s model but Sony has decided to keep it around to accompany the newer 2.4” screened Bluetooth players. But don’t let the “last year’s model” deter you from purchasing. The S610 is by no means out of date- features, sound quality, and video playback are comparable to most players currently on the market.
If you read the A810 review, you may experience a bit of déjà vu since these two players share similar features and navigation. The S610 may be a good alternative if you are looking for an FM radio and a slightly more compact form factor.
- Quick Look
- Size: 47.4 x 84.6 x 16.2 mm
- Screen: 1.8” 320×240 262k Color
- MSRP: 2GB $100, 4GB $130, 8GB $180
- 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: FM Radio
- Complete Specs
Inside the box you will find a proprietary USB cable, dock insert, software CD, and the player. Sony sells a few official accessories for the S610 such as a silicon case, leather case, dock, and Bluetooth adapter.
The majority of the player is made from a matte plastic with a chrome plastic rim around the edges. The plastic screen is very scratch resistant and holds up well. The control pad is also graced with plastic buttons and a smooth plastic face. Overall the build quality is solid but it feels somewhat hollow. Now despite it feeling hollow and plastic, I would not call it cheap. Button tolerances are still very good and typical to Sony. However, if you compared the S610 side by side to the A810, you might say it felt cheap.
The S610 sports a 1.8” 320×240 262k color screen. It is bright, quick, and accurate. Viewing angle are near perfect 180 degrees although may suffer from a little bit of glare depending on your environment’s lighting. Video looks great- is smooth, fast, and colors are vivid.
Software / Media Transfer
We can all rejoice now that Sony has dropped its dreaded SonicStage media player. It was required for previous MP3 players. All of Sony’s players are now MTP allowing them to be used with most media players and subscription music services such as Windows Media Player, MonkeySoft Software, Napster, Rhapsody, and a hand full of others. Drag and drop is also available with updated XP systems and Windows Vista.
Don’t expect to find new firmwares for this player. Sounds ridiculous? Actually, quite the opposite- Sony has a record of releasing bug free and stable firmware. It is nice not to have to continually update your MP3 player’s software.
Just like the recent new line up of Sony’s flash players and previous interfaces for that matter, the S610’s interface may not be simple but it is intuitive. There is a slight learning curve, but once you are familiar, it becomes a powerful and easy to use interface with everything only a few button presses away. Compared to the A810, I do slightly prefer the S610’s button layout being that its more comfortable to reach to the top for the option and back buttons than it is to reach to the right.
Aside from a few icons begin rearranged to fit the FM, the S610 has an interface consistent to nearly all the other players in the Walkman family- A810, A820, A720, S710. That said here is an excerpt from the A810 review concerting the navigation:
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 battery is rated by Sony at 33 hours audio and 8 hours video. This is about twice other players in its class. It also stands up well in real world tests. I got better than 26 hours audio and 7 hours video.
Like its sibling, the A810, it has a really cool instant on feature with no noticeable battery drain. The player does not even take a second to turn on once the button is pressed almost as if it is anticipating your finger on the button.
Picture viewing is straight forwarded- folders, thumbnails, and slideshows. Pictures can be viewed vertically, horizontally left, or horizontally right.
Radio reception is quite good, better than most players. Navigation is easy and auto programming makes adding your favorite stations a snap. There is nothing to complain about this feature. It does just what it is supposed to do.
Playlists / Playback
A big disappointment was the lack of on the go playlisting. Playlists are still available but must be created with your media player on your computer. Audiobook listeners will be disappointed to find that there are not bookmarks as well. Scanning while tracks are playing is excruciatingly slow, but when one paused can scan though at about a min per second.
The S610 sounds very good. Like most of Sony’s players it is well balanced and rich throughout the spectrum. Although I might say that it is a little too rich in the bass end making the bass sound slightly clouded. If you are wondering how it stacks up against the A810- it is identical.
EU & Sound Enhancements
The S610 comes equipped with a 5-band EQ along with a “clear bass” bass boost-like enhancement. The EQ has 7 notches per band going from +3 and down to -3. Sony also throws in some “environment enhancements” called “VST(Surroud)”. The settings include “Studio”, “Live”, “Club”, “Arena”, “Matrix”, and “Karaoke” that will give them respective sound environment characteristics. I don’t like these since I find them to be too unnatural; however you may find them useful.
There is a sound shaping setting similar to BBE or SRS-WOW called DSEE (Sound Enhance) which enhances lossy music to sound more like the original. It works well and very viable compared to BBE. There is another sound enhancement called Clear Stereo. I am unfamiliar with the technology, but it gave the player a bit wider sound stage
The video looks great just like the A810 with smooth 30 frames per second. Keep in mind though the screen is 0.2” smaller than the A810’s 2”. It may seem trivial but it does make a difference.
There is no conversion utility included with the player but there are many available software programs that will convert for the S610. Since the iPod and the PSP uses the same codec as the S610, there are several dozen free programs for converting to M4V. In addition to widely available conversion utilities, content is also widely available via hundreds of podcasts formatted in M4V/QuickTime format. Just be sure to choose the 320×240 resolutions.
The S610 is a very nice player with a very easy and powerful interface. The build quality is light, but still has the typical solid Sony build quality and tight button tolerances. The Walkman (yeah they are still calling it that) sounds great and has some useful sound shaping settings. One big disappointment, however, is the lack of on the go playlists and bookmarks for the audiobook listeners.
So do I recommend the S610? Yes, but Sony also has some very similar players with slightly different features. Sony has done a fine job of confusing its customers with alpha numeric names and slight feature changes. Regardless to whether you have the patience to sort them all out, no matter which you get you will end up with a very nice MP3 player. So don’t sweat it, you really can’t go wrong.
I would recommend checking out the comparison sheet to help you sort though Sony’s array of flash players.
- Sony A810 vs Sony S610
- Sony S610 vs SanDisk Sansa View
- Sony S610 vs Creative Zen
- Sony S610 vs Toshiba Gigabeat T400
- Sony S610 vs Microsoft Zune 4/8
- Instant Start Up
- Great battery life
- Solid Design
- Excellent sound quality
- Nice User Interface
- Solid Firmware
- Good FM Radio
- No on the go playlists
- No bookmarks
- Lacks power for heavy duty headphones
Sony MP3 players are found in many brick and mortars, but can be found the at the best price on Amazon allowing you to avoid sales tax as well. People in the UK and EU can get them online from AdvancedMP3Players.