With the S540 review out of the way, it’s time to shift focus to its baby brother, the E340. How does it compare to the S540?
- Quick Look
- Capacities: 4GB, 8GB, 16GB
- Screen: 2” QVGA 240×320 LCD
- Size: 44.5 x 88.9 x 9.5mm
- Weight: 54g
- Supported Audio: MP3, WMA, AAC-LC, Linear PCM
- Supported Video: MPEG-4, h.264, WMV (DRM) @ 320×240
- Battery Life: 30 hours music, 4 hours video
- Transfer Modes: MTP
- User Interface: Tactile
- Sound enhancements: Clear bass, Clear Stereo, Equalizer, Dynamic Normalizer
- Other Features: FM Radio, alarm, sleep timer
I’ve reviewed a lot of Sony players here on ABi and find myself repeating myself every time. Sony, while making great players, use the same basic OS, same basic menus, same basic more or less concept with each new device. I end up trying to remember to include everything in every review, but I keep forgetting things because I’ve covered it 10 times before. If you want a Sony player, you’re probably looking at the different models anyways, so with doing the S540 review last week I’m going to do this one based on that and talk about the differences and similarities instead of treating this as a completely new device – because it’s not. Here on ABi we try to create a network of cross referenced reviews to cover all players and a support network of features and guides to support those, so treating players this alike as completely different players goes against that. Therefor, read the S540 review before this one to get a better picture of these two rather similar players.
In the box
The box contains the bare minimum; cheap earbuds, USB cable and the player. The software is all on the player, and since the E340 actually uses mini-USB instead of the Sony proprietary connector there’s no dock adapter either as it won’t work in the Sony docks. It also lacks the video stand that the S540 comes with. No dock connector shouldn’t impact too many people and a lot of people will probably go with the E340 because it has mini-USB, making it a lot easier to charge and sync the player without bringing a seperate cable. There are some peripherals that use the dock connector however, such as a Bluetooth adapter and mini speaker, but I doubt many people would use these anyways.
The general look of t
he player is somewhat like a smaller version of the S540. The bottom has the same curved designed that the S540 has, but the top is a flat slope. It has no speaker so there are no speaker grills in the E340, so the design is all plastic. The main chassis is divided into two parts where the bottom part with the buttons is a single solid piece of plastic that is seemingly held in place by two exposed screws on the back. After trying if this was indeed the case I can tell you that it’s not that simple (luckiy, as such screws sometimes fall out over time). While my player is black all over, there are version of this player that has a different color for the top and bottom, such as the 16GB model sold on Sonystyle. I’m personally not a fan of such designs and prefer one single color. The top is hard plastic as well and consists of a black casing that serves as the back, half the sides and the bezel of the screen, with a clear plastic cover that goes on top of that again. This makes the top part seem more shiny than the bottom and create different shades of black even on the completely black model. I’m personally not a fan of shiny plastic at all and I have to say I miss the days of matte plastic or even better- brushed aliminium, as you really shouldn’t have the ability to use the back of your MP3 player as a mirror. The S540 with it’s matte plastic black, metal speaker grills and clear plastic cover had a better feel to it in my opinion. Again, might be just me.
Leaving the colors to rest, the button placement is more or less the same as on the S540. The S540 and the E340 are both generation 4 devices, which is apparently the age of Mickey Mouse. Like the S540, the E340 has a d-pad and main navigation buttons formed like Mickey Mouse’s head. This unfortunately also means it has the same useless buttons that the S540 has, lacking any sort of usable knob-like marking that indicates where your finger is on the d-pad. It is however larger than the S540, which is ironic since the player itself is noticeably smaller than its bigger brother, so it’s slightly better to use than the S540 d-pad. It’s still very annoying to navigate using this d-pad and you will hit the wrong button. A lot. Sony used to have such nice buttons back in the days of the S610, A810 and A820/A720, I don’t know what designer they hired that decided that buttons needed to be close to flush with the player. It’s not a touchpad, Sony, don’t treat it like one.
The hold switch and the volume buttons are located on the left side, though the E340 is missing the speaker switch of the S540 since it has no speakers. The bottom has the 3.5mm jack, lanyard hole and the mini-USB connector, the latter of which seems somewhat out of place being dead center and having a lot of empty space on either side. Most companies that use this form factor, including SanDisk, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung all use proprietary connectors, so having a simple (yet so useful) mini-USB port on the bottom of a player just looks so out of place- like a Chinese copy, somewhat. The rest of the player is clean, with no additional buttons or anything besides the rest hole on the back.
While the looks of the player is one thing, the actual feel of it is quite nice. It feels solid and well made, without any creaking from bad plastic molds or anything like that. The shape of it with the smooth back and front makes it feel much more like an MP3 player than the S540 does, the latter of which felt like a PSP when holding it sideways and an old school microphone when holding it upright. One thing I want to point out however is that while containing no speakers, the E340 is almost as thick as the S540. Remembering back to the S630 it was a lot slimmer, albeit felt less sturdy due to that fact as well. It’s still not a thick player, and only really feel thick compared to the older S630.
Like the S540 the E340 has an FM radio, but being the smaller brother it does lack the FM recording feature. Other than that the radio is pretty much identical to that on the S540, which means it’s a nice radio with good sound and decent reception.
While the E340 has a smaller screen than it’s bigger brother (2″ vs 2.4″) it has the same resolution at 240×320. This makes for a very sharp screen that works great for a few quick videos, even though I wouldn’t call either a very big contender for the video player market. Unfortunately the E340 shares the S540′s bad viewing angle, where if the screen is tilted with the top towards you (left side towards you if in landscape mode) at all you will get messed up contrast. I have devices with perfect 180 degree viewing angles so I’m tired of seeing companies use bad screens on their products, it certainly doesn’t give them a nice reputation.
Back in the S540 review I mentioned how Sony is very adamant about there being 9 icons on the main menu; no more, no less. With players that have a lot of features such as the S630 this means somewhat awkward sub-menus, and with the S540 and the E340 it means some redundant icons. The S540 has voice recording, which the E340 don’t. As a result, the E340 has what I would describe as the most useless main menu icon in the history of MP3 players; a clock icon. That’s right, one of the 9 main icons on the E340 has a single function which is to display the clock. Consistency is one thing Sony, but the redundant icons have to end. Make the last icon customizable instead, allowing people to add their own shortcut to for example artists/folder browsing, or maybe equalizer etc- whatever floats their boat.
The E340 is also lacking the “built in SP optimizer” setting compared to the S540, but other than that the menus, settings- everything is the same. I’m not sure wther the S540 isn’t premium enough, or if it’s the E340 that’s not basic enough, but there’s not really that much difference between these players at all.
The E340 uses the exact same system of transfer as the S540, including software. Despite having a mini-USB connector, it’s still MTP by default in Windows (which kinda makes sense as this enables it to be used with Sony’s software). It supports the same formats both for video and audio.
When testing the sound quality of players I use a self-built A/B switch that lets me play the same song on two players and then have both connected to the same headphones and switch between them. Most MP3 players today sound “good enough”, which is basically a way of saying there’s so little difference that 99% of the people buying a player should in most cases not worry about getting the best sounding one as there are other factors that are a lot more important. With the E340 and the S540, the A/B test confirmed what I already expected: the two sound the same. Exactly the same. More so, the “SP optimizer” that the E340 is missing didn’t seem to make any difference to the sound quality at all, certainly not enough for anyone to care. Bottom line, the E340 is as well sounding a player as its bigger brother.
The E340 is for all intents and purposes a somewhat limited version of the S540. For $30 less, you get a smaller player (with a smaller screen) that lacks a voice recorder, FM recording, video stand and speakers as well as having a mini-USB port instead of the proprietary dock connector and a shorter battery life. It all comes down to whether you want the “premium” features of the S540 or not, as otherwise you can just as well go with the E340. In fact, I know quite a few people who would choose the E340 for the mini-USB alone. At $80 for the 8GB and $100 for the 16GB, the E340 is excellent value for the money, giving you a very capable player with plenty capacity for an awesome price. It has great sound quality, decent battery life, a small form factor and video playback as well as the legendary Sony firmware stability.
- Sound Quality
- Mini-USB connector
- Buttons are close to useless
- Could have had better battery life
- Looks like Mickey Mouse
Amazon normally has the best prices for MP3 players and at the time of this writing the 16GB E340 can be had for $95.
For support and other questions, please refer to our E-series forum.