Review- Sony Walkman NWZ-1060

Review Sony Walkman NWZ-1060- I first got a hold of the Walkman Z (its moniker) unintentionally because of my VAIO S15 Purchase in 2012. Originally awaiting their back to school promo and hoping they would offer a PS Vita for free (the previous year had offered a PSP for free and America was getting the PS Vita for free with a VAIO purchase for the back to school promo), I ended up buying it because I figured they wouldn’t be offering anything else. I didn’t want the Walkman Z because a) I thought it looked really bulky for a DAP  with a 4.3 inch screen, b) the screen was poor quality/resolution, c) I didn’t understand the point of Android on a DAP and d) I wasn’t in my Sony fanboy stage yet. Also I was already happily using other DAPs and it felt redundant.

DSCN0013You can see I was so excited to get it in the mail anyways that I took a really crappy and single shot of its unboxing- getting this stuff in the mail is just way too awesome. It was fairly simple packaging and nothing to indicate that it was meant to be a higher end DAP for people who wanted better sound. That was also a reason I didn’t want it at first- there was no indication that this had better sound than your typical smart phone, so why bother carrying a bulky device for no added benefit?

DSC02413It was a pretty sweet purchase in the end- I was happy I got it, as it brought me back to my Walkman roots starting with my old Discman in grade 7. There was also a 100 bucks off too- it was an awesome deal overall, on something I was already going to be picking up.

DSC_0082It came with these funky MDR-EX0300 earbuds- considered better than typical  stock earbuds- before I would have been pretty excited about this, but I was already moving onto higher end gear at this point and these were ok at best- less than ok really for me. Little detail overall and nothing super impressive- however for the average consumer, it was nice to have it as a throw in.

DSC_0085Design – Overall its a fairly better than average but not premium feeling device.   The top half is made of glass for the screen, the side chassis is aluminum with black paint and the back is purple plastic. There are no creaks in this device and its solid feeling. I would have preferred more premium materials considering this is supposed to make you want to carry it in addition to your smartphone. There is a Walkman port on the bottom for charging/data transfer, a lanyard loop wire and a 3.5mm headphone jack. There is a volume rocker on the top right side and a walkman control button in the middle. A lone power jack sits at the top. On the back is a single speaker. The bottom has a smooth curve that indents inwards in the middle- this is supposed to give the speaker clearance so it doesn’t muffle when the player is right side up on a surface- supposedly this helps with reflecting the sound out. Its very smooth and easy to grip in the hand but its definitely not a small device- carrying this and a phablet is a lot. You can see that the paint wears off on both the purple and black region of the device. Not super impressed.

DSC_0090Battery and connectivity– I really hate this part- the Walkman Z uses the propriety Walkman port so you can only use the cable it comes with to charge and transfer. This is really annoying because it adds another cable you have to carry with you and I can’t just plug in my microUSB cable to charge. The annoying thing is that Sony doesn’t do this with their phones- so why not just make it easier and use it across their Walkmans as well? The device has an older version of BT so conenctivity is hit and miss- for example, it cannot pair with my Sony SmartBand because the SB uses BT 4.0. It also doesn’t have aptX for streaming so I wouldn’t use it for wireless music (I’ve tried it on regular BT and the difference is apparent- it sucks). Battery life is ok- if you leave Wi-Fi on it will die quickly- turning it off makes it run longer and you can easily get a day of listening out of it.

DSC_0084Screen – In a period where the ominous black slab is the design choice for everyone, a screen is particularly important since that will be the primary mode of interacting with the device. This was one of my contentious points with the Walkman Z- when I was using it, I had been using my Blackberry Bold 9900 for a phone and an iPod Touch 32GB 3rd gen/Samsung YP-P3 DAP/Sony Walkman NW-HD5 for music. You can see that I already had a decent stable of DAPs to choose from- so seeing that this was a bloated mass of hardware with a low res screen (800×480 compared to the 720p screens that were coming out on phones at that screen size 4.3inch), I didn’t really find anything screenwise impressive about it other than being big. And I was right- you can see the screen at full brightness simply cannot compete with the morning sun. Colors are okay, but its painfully obvious the screen res is low (esp compared to the 2K screen on my old LG G3). Its not terrible, but its just adequate. Audiophiles might scoff at the worries of a low res screen but its there in my face and I don’t like it. Its reflective in the sun and it washes out easy. At least viewing angles are not that bad.

DSC02403There is really nothing to distinguish this is not a phone but an audiophile oriented Walkman other than the Walkman logo.

DSC_0086There is a low volume mono speaker on the bottom- as I mentioned before, this really is not that spectacular and I would not substitute a portable speaker for this. It does have a few tricks that are supposed to enhance its sound but its nothing like clicking “ClearAudio” on my Z3 and hearing the really nice EQing that makes the most out of the small speaker. Its fortunately quite clear in sound and at the very least has decent vocals. Its not necessarily teeny sounding like many mono/mini speakers are, but its not a reason you should buy this. I suppose this was to augment this as a media player for things like YouTube. 

DSC_0087Usability – POOR I want to emphasize how much I am disappointed by the usability of this device. Aside from the annoyance of the Walkman port, this device is SLOW. I believe it uses the Nvidia Tegra 2 CPU with a measly 1GHZ dual core speed and 512mb of RAM. Considering my Z3 uses a quad core CPU with 3GB of RAM, I think you can guess the difference in speed here. The last update is Android 4.04. While it was nice not to have Gingerbread on this, it does miss out on the results of Project Butter that was supposed to make Android run faster on slow devices. That’s a shame because this is slow as snails. There’s lag in everything. I don’t bother using the browser or youtube because it lags. The worst part is the Walkman button you see above- this brings up a mini control screen app that is quite awesome when it works. It lets you swipe control regardless of where you are on the device- i.e. if it is on screen lock, you can just bring up media controls. However, it is so slow to pop up (inconsistently), that its faster to screen unlock and bring up the media player. That’s a shame. Finally, what I find disappointing is that the device does not support wired remotes – i.e. the three button Apple remotes or the single button remote like on the Sony XBA-H3. This means there is no way to circumvent the lag in media control and you just have to yank your headphones off if you suddenly need to pause the music.  The device is also too big to simply slide in a pocket and walk around. I ended up only using it when I was sitting down. Oh and in typical Sony fashion there was no expandable memory on this- this has been rectified on their new Walkmans but its just too late for me. 16GB gets eaten up fast in Android- I can’t imagine how little space the 8GB model has. This drove me nuts- my tiny 3rd gen iPod Touch had 32GB of space! And transferring music was a pain in the butt – you have to rely on third party apps like DoubleTwist which doesn’t always work all the time.

DSC02389Audio Quality- The most important part right?The audio quality is good. That’s it. I don’t think its particularly great. At first I think I was just trying to force myself to like it because it was Sony and there must be a reason I was carrying it on top of my phone (I had then switched to the Note II which had a really fun colored sound). I want to emphasize that clarity is a good piece here- particularly with the vocals/mids. It just doesn’t have the thump to the low end that I enjoy. This is with a wide variety of headphones- I was using primarily the XBA-3 and XBA-H3 with the Walkman Z. EQing just did not give me the low end I wanted and In a really bizarre move, I had to drop the EQ to the negatives on the low end in order to make it not so emphasized on the mids and highs (it was anemic on the bass for serious). However, I do believe the sound was a little more detailed in the mids and highs compared to my iPod Touch and Gnote II. Its just not night and day and to be honest, I would not carry this as a secondary device now. Compared to the Z3, it just does not EQ well- this means that adjusting the sound to different genres or headphones doesn’t work well. I must give it credit though- it sounded good enough that I carried it in a special passport wallet for almost two years. My Z3 is more than sufficient right now and I don’t need to deal with the crappy lag in the UI.

Conclusion– this Walkman was good but not great- it wasn’t powerful enough to drive any of my bigger cans like the MDR-7520 well, and simply didn’t have the audio advantage to justify carrying it as a second device on top of a smartphone. I certainly liked the classic purple/black design (really associate purple with the Walkman brand), but there just wasn’t enough in this DAP to make me say wow. Most damning of it all was the lag in Android. I cannot stand it and it completely killed the one innovative feature of the Walkman shortcut button. Lack of expandable memory and poor screen res means there was very little going for this DAP. It really could have been so much more. Compared to modern DAPs like the Walkman ZX1, its like a night and day difference in usability- the hard media control buttons on the ZX1 are already a huge step above. Pros- okay sound quality- minorly better than iPod/GNote II, purple color Cons- poor screen quality, large for no reason, LAG SO MUCH LAG, weak headphone amp, Walkman port, old BT so poor connectivity with peripherals,, no aptX , not compatible with wired remotes

TLDR- audio quality is moderately better than the typical DAP- there are more cons than pros in this device and its hard to justify carrying this on top of a smartphone. THERE IS TOO MUCH LAG. 

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