The A820 series is Sony’s latest and flagship in the Walkman line up. As the head honcho of the family, the A820 is the first to sport Bluetooth audio. Unlike recent Samsung players which support extended Bluetooth features, this Sony only supports Bluetooth audio transfer and control. If you have used any of the more recent Sony Walkmans you will get a near identical experience since the interface and the features are the same. The only new thing here is the addition of Bluetooth, larger screen, and different form factor.
With that said, this review will be slightly abridged since have pretty much covered the majority of the A820 in the A810 and S610 reviews. This review will focus mainly on what makes this player stand out from the other Sony Walkmans.
- Quick Look
- Size: 51 x 93.9 x 9.3mm
- Weight: 58g
- Capacities: 8GB, 16GB
- Screen: 2.4″ QVGA TFT display (320 x 240)
- Video Support: MPEG-4 (M4V)
- Audio Support: AAC, MP3, WMA
- Rated Battery Life: 35 Hours Audio / 10 Hours Video
- Other Features: Bluetooth, Clock
Inside the Box / Available Accessories
Inside the box you will find: the player, proprietary USB cable, headphones with various sized inserts, video stand, dock insert, and software CD (Napster and WMP11). It includes all the basics you need to get started, but the more interesting included accessories are the headphones. These are probably the best out of the box headphones I have listened to.
Other accessories are available directly from Sony such as a few different types of cases, as well as various docking station and speakers. Since the player is Bluetooth there are plenty of accessories you can connect to including a hand full of wireless headphones, car head units, home systems, ect.
Design / Build Quality
The style and design is very typical Sony- still living in the 80’s with a modern flair. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it also lives up to the tight tolerances and sturdy design traditional to Sony. The think candy bar design is a treat to hold in your hand and slips nicely into your gear bag, backpack, purse, or European carry-all.
The back of the player along with the button face is made of a light painted metal, bein
g a hard and durable anodized finish. The chrome edge and side buttons are composed of a light plastic, probably being the cheapest feeling part of the player. But all the buttons have a very solid firm press, again, typical to Sony. The screen is plastic but very scratch resistant. Not something you want to set face down, but it will take some abuse.
What irritates me however is the FCC warning silk screen all over the back of the player. Though trivial, the details really help polish out a design. Why they did this I have no idea. Why couldn’t they have just added a sticker? I would have even settled for one of those pain-in the-ass-stickers that needs Goo Gone to facilitate the removal.
The 2.4” 320×240 262k color screen is very good displaying colors accurately with a great pixel response time. I would call it better than average but I don’t feel as if it is as good as Samsung screens, where Sony’s fall short on contrast ratio and (although very good) viewing angle.
The user interface is identical to other players: S610, A810, A720, ect. In short it is not very intuitive, but once learned it is easy and powerful. Here is a video showing off the interface. As you can see it is near identical to the rest of the recent Sony Walkmans.
Sony does a great job squeezing out the battery time of all of their Walkmans and the A820 is no exception. Even with Bluetooth on I got easily a full day of tunes with 14 hours. Without Bluetooth on it does run a bit shy of the 35 hours stated, as the same with the video running for at least 8 hours.
I tested the Bluetooth option on three different devices: Motorola DC800 Transceiver/Receiver, Sony Mini-hi-fi system, and a pair of no named Bluetooth headphones. All paired and played without problems; additionally AVRCP audio controls features such as pause/play/skip worked just as well.
There are two different quality setting for Bluetooth. While I could not tell a difference with a standard set of headphones I was able to tell a very slight difference with the Motorola DC800 routed into my AudioFilre2 sound card then onto Sennheiser HD650s. The lower quality sounded more compressed.
Pictures / Video
The playback for pictures and video are identical to the rest of the recent Sony line up; reading the A810 review will give you full explanation. For a basic summary, the A820 does a really nice job of video playback. It does require video to be in a specific MP4 (H.264) format but that is not worries since there is already a lot of content out there since the iPod and PSP uses the same format. Converting your own content is also a breeze since; again, plenty of tools exist because of the iPod and also PSP.
The A820 is the best sounding out of the box MP3 player (aside from the same A810 experience) meaning that if you don’t want to purchase any additional headphones, this is the best sounding all in one box solution (but again you get the same experience from the Sony A810 and A720).
However, adding a nice pair of headphones is a slightly different story. I still think this player sound very good but on my Shure SE530’s the A820 sounds very processed. It did however perform well in the sub $200 headphone category particularly with my Future Sonics Atrio M5’s and CrossRoad Mylar’s. However, like the other A and S series Sony’s I did find the low to mid bass on the exaggerated side. In the end the A820 performs fantastic with lower end to fairly premium phones, but I cannot recommend the A820 for the upper echelon of headphones.
To fend off redundancy please read the A810 review since features like video, audio playback, pictures, playlists, audiobook capabilities, search, and UI are all identical to the A820.
With the Sony A820 you are paying a premium, so if you are looking for a great value, look elsewhere. However, if you are willing to pay the price tag you get a very nice player that may warrant the premium. The build quality is typical to the well made line of Sony products. Video looks great and is compatible with many content and conversion tools already out there. If you are looking for a Bluetooth player, this is definitely a good choice as it performs as expected with any audio based Bluetooth device. If Bluetooth is not your thing you should check out the A720 as it is the same player minus Bluetooth.