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Old 10-03-2010, 01:43 AM
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GreasyTacoAficionado GreasyTacoAficionado is offline
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Default Sony NWZ-E355 Review

Sony NWZ-E355 Review


The Specs
Specs:
  • Audio Format(s) Supported : Music: MP3, WMA (DRM), AAC, Linear PCM
  • Station Preset(s) : 30 FM Presets: Auto or Manual
  • Screen Size : 2" QVGA TFT color display2 (320 x 240 Pixels)
  • 16GB advertised, Device reports 14.1GB available for song storage

Power Specs
  • Battery Charging (Approx) : USB-based charging
  • Approx. 3 Hrs(full charge)
  • Approx. 1.5 hours (approx. 80%)
  • Battery Life (Approx) :
  • Music: 50 hrs. (MP3/WMA 128kbps);
  • Video: 10 hrs. (WMA 384kbps);
  • FM Radio: 20 hrs.
  • Power Type : Built-in Rechargeable Li-ion Battery

In the Box
  • NWZ-E355, USB cord, cheapo headphones, and a useless manual
Purchase info:
  • Bought at BestBuy Canada for $130 CAD (128 USD, 93 EURO)



Why I Purchased the Sony NWZ-E355
I’ve been looking for a MP3 player to replace my aging but still functional 1GB Creative Zen Nano Plus. I use a pair of Shure SE102 headphones which cost about $70. They provided the sound isolation I wanted for listing to music or podcasts, like the hilarious MBMBAM.com podcast (highly recommend you check it out), while going for a run or going to the gym. I considered the following MP3 players to replace my Zen: SanDisk Clip Plus 4GB, Sony NWZ-E345 16GB, Zune HD 16 or 32 GB, and the SanDisk Fuze Plus.

I really like Zune HD but it’s a little more than I wanted to spend, and I thought it might be a little too big for running or taking to the gym. The SanDisk Clip Plus looked like a great size but I was concerned the 15hour battery life might be a little too short. So far the SanDisk Fuze Plus isn’t available at retail.

I first became interested in the NWZ-E355 after learning it allows playlists to be created on the device and songs to be deleted on the device (Edit:Thanks to great feedback in comments I've discovered that files in the Music folder cannot be deleted on the device itself, Sony you heart-breaker you). The NWZ-E345 doesn’t do this as far as I know. Shortly after that I saw BestBuy Canada had the 16GB NWZ-E355 for sale for $130 CAD, that’s 44% more than the 16GB NWZ-E345’s price of $90. Quite a markup, but I decided what the hell and bought the thing.

Hardware
The E355 is a good looking player. Clear plastic covers the front of the unit and extends a few mm past the top providing a small window for light to pass through, the effect is pretty cool. Being made of plastic you know it will scratch easily if dropped or if you put it in your pocket with your keys so it’s best to use some kind of case with it. Unfortunately Sony doesn’t make a case with a belt clip, so right now I’m just using a small baggie made for sunglasses. The buttons on the front tilt to a certain degree when you touch them, this feels a little cheap but they function just fine. On the Right side is a hold switch, and volume up down buttons. On the bottom are the 3.5mm headphone jack and the USB 2.0 port.

The first thing that struck me when turning on the E355 was how beautiful the menus look. Sony uses a combination of colors and fading light that make the menus a joy to use. The screen is a 2" QVGA TFT color display with 320 x 240 Pixels.



Sound
This is only my second MP3 player, my other is a 1GB Creative Zen Nano Plus, so I can’t make any direct comparisons. It sounds great to my ears though. I didn’t bother trying the cheapo headphones that came with the unit, just my Shure SE102 in ear monitors.

Battery
Sony advertises battery life of 50 hours for (MP3/WMA 128kbps) music,10 hours (WMA 384kbps), and 20 hours for FM Radio. Sony claims charging times of 3 hours full charge, and 1.5 hours 80% charge, over USB. I haven’t been able to test this out yet.

Included Software
Sony has a setup.exe file stored on the player with some kind of software on it for your computer. I didn’t bother trying it out.

Using the NWZ-E355
The Good
  • If you start listening to a song or podcast like the great ones at MBMBAM.com, and then change to something else, the player keeps note of where you left off and will continue on from that point. This is especially great for podcast listening.
  • You can create playlists on the device itself, the E355 calls these Bookmark lists. But you can only do this for items in the Music folder, not the Podcast folder.
  • The player can create automatic playlists based on info in the MP3 file ID3 tags, like genre, artist, etc. And it also creates playlists (SenseMe Channels) based on its analysis of the music, channels include Night, Extreme, Upbeat, Relax, Energetic. I thought this would be a gimmick but it actually seems pretty handy. After telling the player to analyze my tracks it put my electrobeat music from http://zpower.zieglerc.net/ (ZPower, pretty good DJ) into the Energetic Channel, Cool.
  • Sony has included two karaoke options, Maximum Karaoke Mode and Minimum Karaoke Mode. What other company would do this? I’ll never use these but it cracks me up that they’re there. I also have no idea how to create the lyric files needed for Karaoke mode. EDIT: Instructions on how to create the LRC text files that contain the lyrics for Karaoke mode at http://www.sony-asia.com/support/faq/411702 Audacity would be a good program to use to pinpoint the time the lyrics are sung to 1/100 of a second http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
  • There is a Language Study mode that lets you use up, down arrows for quick replay or setting A-B repeat playback. This would be great for anyone studying a language podcast. Clicking the left or right button Rewinds/FastForwards the MP3 by about 3 seconds. This seems handy but you’d think this would be the default use of the left right keys for all songs and podcasts, not just when using Language Study. More on this in a bit.
  • There is a Battery Care setting that lengthens the life of the battery by only charging it to 90%. Cool, but I still like user replaceable batteries.
  • After 1 month of use: After useing the E355 on a lanyard for a while I really appreciate its small size and lightweight. I thought having it hang around my neck would bug me while running but I barely notice it's there.

The Weird to Not So Good
  • A bit slow to fast forward and rewind podcasts. Took 1minute 25seconds to fast forward 15 minutes. The speed of the Fast Forward should increase the longer you hold it. On the E355 it does this to some extent but not enough. But the fact that the player always remembers where you left off listening to a podcast helps reduce the need for this function. Edit: As mentioned in the comments, FastForward is much faster if you first pause the MP3. Doing this, it took about 10 seconds to FastForward 15 minutes.
  • You can listen to MP3 files in the Music folder while viewing options outside the Music folder, but you can’t listen to files in the Podcast folder while viewing options outside the Podcast Folder. This is mildly weird.
  • I’m not sure this player can ever be turned off. Even if you turn it off and activate the hold switch, pushing any button will turn on the screen. Weird.

The Bad
  • If you accidentally depress the left or right arrow buttons, in a quick manner, while playing a song or podcast, the player automatically starts over from the beginning. This is really annoying and easy to do accidentally when taking the player in or out of your pocket, so you have to activate the hold button before you place it in your pocket.
  • The manual has only the bear minimal amount of info and legal considerations. There is no info on how to create the lyric files for karaoke mode and there is no info on Sony’s website. EDIT: Instructions on how to create the LRC text files that contain the lyrics for Karaoke mode at http://www.sony-asia.com/support/faq/411702 Audacity would be a good program to use to pinpoint the time the lyrics are sung to 1/100 of a second http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
  • Sony does not make a case for this player with a belt clip. My old Creative Zen Nano Plus came with a little belt clip case which was very handy. Sony doesn’t include one, they don’t even make a case with a belt clip, they make an arm band case, and they make a small silicon case with a belt loop. But who wears a belt when they go running, or go to the gym? I’ll have to see if I can find an older iPod Nano case with a belt clip.
  • There is no support for play count. It would be great to use the player, have it keep track of the number of times each song has been played, then sync this playcount info with your song library on your computer via Windows Media Player, and then transfer in a new list of songs. I read a rant on this topic on a Nokia smart phone forum somewhere. I have no idea which MP3 players or smartphones support this, if any. But it would be nice.
  • If an file is in the MUSIC folder, you can add it to a BookMark List (Playlist) on the device, But NOT if it's in the PODCAST folder. Also, if an file is in the Music folder, you cannot delete it on the device, but you can if it's in the PODCAST folder. Common Sony, what's with these weird arbitrary rules. If there's a song on my player that sucks I want to have the choice to kill it.


Final Thoughts
The Sony NWZ-E355 is a great little player with nice menus and great battery life. I thought things were logically laid out until I discovered you can delete files in the PODCAST Folder on the device, but not files in the MUSIC Folder. So Beware, if your girlfriend (or boyfriend?) loads your NWZ-E355 with Katty Perry songs before that transatlantic flight, you're stuck with them. Notwithstanding that bit of insanity, I still feel the $130 CAD (128 USD, 93 Euro) is a little pricey for a plastic player but it still compares pretty well against Apple’s 16GB 6th Generation iPod Nano which goes for $189 CAD (185 USD, 135 Euro). It’s a shame that Sony doesn’t include a nice case with a clip on it for taking it to the gym or running. That’s the niche that SanDisk has effectively targeted the Clip Plus at, and now Apple too with the 6th Gen Nano. If a clip isn’t a priority for you, and you don't mind not being able to delete songs in the Music folder on the device, the Sony NWZ-E355 is a nice player, especially if you can find it for closer to $100 CAD(98 USD, 71 Euro).


Final Final Thoughts
Edit: 38 days later. Nov 4, 2010
Well, Looks like I'm not the only one who thought the E355 would be better priced at under $100. Just noticed BestBuy Canada lowered the price.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Below are some more pics, and a more in depth look at the menus of the NWZ-E355.


















Loading files via Windows Explorer: Music Folder vs Podcast Folder
Using Windows Explorer to load MP3s onto the player you’ll see there is a folder marked Music and another marked Podcasts. When using the device these folders are viewable from the Music and Podcast menu items on the main screen. You can put music or podcast MP3s in either but the player does treat the two folders differently.

MP3 files in the Music folder:
  • Can be added to on the fly playlists which are called Bookmark lists on the device.
  • Cannot be deleted using the device itself, that's disappointing.
  • Show up in the SensMe Channels, which are categories of your music the player makes based on Beats Per Minute other crazy stuff. I could see these being useful if you have lots of music on your player. Categories include: Night, Extreme, Upbeat, Relax, Energetic, Shuffle All
MP3 files in the Podcast folder:
  • Cannot be added to on the fly playlists which are called Bookmark lists on the device.
  • Can be deleted using the device.
  • When a podcast is done playing the player doesn’t automatically start playing the next. If there’s a way to change this I haven’t found it.


The Main Screen Menu:
  1. SensMe Channels
  2. FM Radio
  3. Playlists
  4. Photos
  5. Music
  6. Videos
  7. Settings
  8. Podcasts
  9. Go to song playback screen

Main Screen Menus In Depth
  1. SensMe Channels
    • Night, Extreme, Upbeat, Relax, Energetic, Shuffle All
  2. FM Radio
  3. Playlists
  4. Photos
    • DCIM: empty
    • Picture: contains: 18 different Screen Saver Pictures; 3 Wallpaper images: Black, Red, and Blue
    • Pictures: empty
  5. Music
    • Your given the choice to view files in your Music folder in 8 different ways. (1)All Songs - alphabetically, (2)Album, (3)Artist, (4)Genre, (5)Release Year, (6)Playlists - created in Windows Media Player or other software I assume, not the device itself, (7)Bookmark - there are 5 different Bookmark lists, which are playlists you create on the device itself, you can only add files contained in the Music folder, not the Podcasts folder; and (8)Folder - gives you a folder view of your Music folder.
  6. Videos
  7. Settings
    1. Music Settings
      1. Play Mode: Normal, Repeat, Shuffle, Shuffle&Repeat, Repeat 1Song
      2. Playback Range: No idea???? All Range, Selected Range
      3. Equalizer: None, Heavy, Pop, Jazz, Unique, Custom1, Custom2. There is a Clear Bass setting in Custom1 & 2.
      4. VPT (Surround): Stands for: Virtual Phones Technology, choices are:None, Studio, Live, Club, Arena, Matrix.More info at:
        http://www.sony.net/Products/vpt/overview/index.html
      5. DSEE(Sound Enhance): Stands for Digital Sound Enhancement Engine, choices are: on,off. More info at http://www.sony.com.au/support/faq/318000
      6. Clear Stereo: choices are: on, off
      7. Dynamic Normalizer: choices are: on, off
      8. Default Bookmark List – No idea what this does
      9. Album Display Format: Title & Cover Art, Cover Art Only
      10. Display Lyrics: on, on (no screen off), off
      11. Karaoke/Language Settings
        • Off,
        • Language Study: lets you use up, down arrows for quick replay or setting A-B repeat playback
        • Maximum Karaoke Mode: Play karaoke with the lowest vocal volume. Use the up down button to raise or lower the song key
        • Minimum Karaoke Mode: Play karaoke with the lower vocal volume. Use the up down button to raise or lower the song key
      12. DPC (speed control) – Digital Pitch Control, allows you to change the play speed without altering the pitch of the sound, choices are: x0.5, x0.75, x0.9, off, x1.1, x1.25, x1.5, x1.75, x2.0. Works on items in the Music folder, as well as the Podcasts folder.
    2. Video Settings:
      • Zoom Settings: Auto, Full, Off
      • On-Hold Display: Yes, No
      • Order of Video List: Date/Time (oldest), Date/Time (Newest), Title (A>Z), Title (Z>A)
    3. Podcast Settings
      • Podcast Language Studes: On, Off
    4. Photo Settings
      • Photo List Format: Thumbnail + Title, Thumbnail Only
    5. FM Radio Settings
      • Scan Sensitivity: High, Low
      • Mono/Auto: Auto, Mono
    6. Alarm/Sleep Timer
      • Alarm Settings: Alarm on/off, Alarm Time, Repeat, Default Alarm Sound, Alarm Song
      • Sleep Timer Settings: off, After 30, 60, 90, 120 Min
    7. Common Settings
      • Unit Information
      • AVLS (Volume Limit): on, off
      • Beep Settings: on, off
      • Screensaver: on/off, Type, Delay
      • Brightness:5 brightness settings
      • Wallpaper Settings
      • Clock Settings
      • Battery Care: on, off; “The battery’s life may be elongated by limiting the charge amount to approximately 90% when fully charged”
      • Reset/Format: Reset All Settings, Format
      • USB Connection Mode “Use when connection to USB cannot be established. Use this mode? Yes, No
    8. Language Settings – 13 different languages
  8. Podcasts
    • Gives a folder view of your podcasts
  9. Go to song playback screen
    • Go to song playback screen

-----------------------------
Options Menu for files in the MUSIC and PODCAST Folder
Hitting the Option button when playing an MP3 brings up different menus, depending on whether the file is in the MUSIC Folder or the PODCAST Folder.

Options Menu for files in the MUSIC Folder
  1. Play Mode: Normal, Repeat, Shuffle, Shuffle&Repeat, Repeat 1 Song.
  2. Playback Range: All Range, Selected Range
  3. Karaoke/Language Study: Off,Language Study, Maximum Karaoke Mode, Minimum Karaoke Mode
  4. DPC (speed control) – Digital Pitch Control, allows you to change the play speed without altering the pitch of the sound, choices are: x0.5, x0.75, x0.9, off, x1.1, x1.25, x1.5, x1.75, x2.0
  5. Display Lyrics: Only for songs that have a lyric text file, not sure how to make this.
  6. Equalizer: None, Heavy, Pop, Jazz, Unique, Custom1, Custom2. There is a Clear Bass setting in Custom1 & 2.
  7. VPT(Surround): None, Studio, Live, Club, Arena, Matrix
  8. Add to Wishlist: I have no idea what this is
  9. Detailed Information: of the MP3 file
  10. Set as alarm Song
  11. Add to Bookmark: You can add songs to five different bookmark lists, ie playlists.


Options Menu for files in the PODCAST Folder
  1. Podcast Language Study
  2. DPC (speed control) – Digital Pitch Control, allows you to change the play speed without altering the pitch of the sound, choices are: x0.5, x0.75, x0.9, off, x1.1, x1.25, x1.5, x1.75, x2.0
  3. Equalizer: None, Heavy, Pop, Jazz, Unique, Custom1, Custom2. There is a Clear Bass setting in Custom1 & 2.
  4. VPT(Surround): None, Studio, Live, Club, Arena, Matrix
  5. Detailed Information: of the MP3 file
  6. Delete This Episode



That's my review. Hope you enjoyed it. Drop some comments to tell me your thoughts on this review, the NWZ-E355 and life.
~Greasy Taco Aficionado


Last edited by GreasyTacoAficionado; 11-04-2010 at 10:47 PM.
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