IT was strangely ironic that the very first track to be loaded on this latest incarnation of the famous Sony Walkman, the Network Walkman if you please, was Billy Connolly leading a diatribe on the Last Supper, because some of the initial difficulties I had loading up the software and getting everything in place had me call for divine intervention at one stage.
These initial difficulties are not solely Sony’s fault, but can be shared by every manufacturer of any digital device today, be it a digital camera or an MP3 player. In my case it was because my computer at work sports either the wrong operating system, forms part of an office network or is overburdened with too much software. Either way after four or five attempts I gave up and managed to get it right on my computer at home. The same complaint can be applied to Apple with its iPod and the constant upgrades that it requires. A recent installation of iPod’s software took me at least three hours. Simply put, technology manufacturers have yet to master making technology simple.
When I got home and installed the software for Sony’s Network Walkman, the installation was faultless and within minutes the not-so-dulcet tones of a Billy Connolly in full flight had me in stitches whilst struggling to concentrate on getting to grips with the HD-5.
Once finally installed, Sony’s flagship music manager software Sonic Stage is elegance in itself. Simply load in a CD of choice and the music — or the insane rant of a scraggly Scotsman on the differences between Glasgow and Galilee — is instantly imported to your computer’s hard drive. Sony’s inclusion of Gracenote’s music recognition service instantly populates the fields with the names of the tracks and one click later and the entire content is whisked on to the HD-5 via USB 2.0 and available for listening within a minute.
Similar in dimension to a credit card — albeit a bit chunkier — the music player has an operating system which at first would be alien to the average iPod user, for example, but again embodies sleekness and refinement that seems to extend across Sony’s range of consumer technologies. The HD-5 boasts some 20GB of hard disk drive space, a whopping 40 hours of battery life (significantly more than what’s available on the market today) and is capable of storing some 15,000-16,000 music tracks. Users can also store audio, visual and data files (Word, PowerPoint, MP3, ATRAC) but iPod users or customers of iTunes will be disappointed as it doesn’t recognise iTunes MP3 files. However, the good news is that in recent months Sony opened its Connect music store for the Irish marketplace, and users can choose from more than 600,000 songs from over 700 labels for 99c per track.
Definitely the device of choice this summer for music lovers, the HD-5 Network Walkman can be purchased in Sony stores for €299 or online from www.sony.ie.
By John Kennedy