Sony NWZ-A845 review

This smart little Sony is the best non-Apple portable device we've seen - even beating the all-powerful Nano in some key areas Tested at £120

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

The best non-Apple ultra-portable we’ve seen, and in some ways it’s better than the nano


  • +

    Stylish design

  • +

    big screen

  • +

    easy to populate with content

  • +

    open, weighty sound


  • -

    Not as musical as the best

  • -

    disappointing headphones

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When we first sampled this Sony we knew it was up for a scrap with the iPod nano. “For the first time in years the little Apple has a genuine rival,” we said.

And it really is a worthy rival: our review sample came with a list of ways that the company believes its Walkman trumps the iPod.

It's a hard list to argue with, too: although there's an admission that the 'A845 doesn't have a video camera, the fact that it has a 2.8in OLED screen and comes with headphones valued at £70 is far more exciting as far as we're concerned.

Also very significant is the Walkman's iPlayer support. This is far from the first portable to be compatible with videos from the BBC's online video service, but it is the first that will handle the proper Windows Media Player versions rather than the more compressed ones designed for portables.

The result is that crime series Luther is played back with impressive black depth, loads of white punch, and vivid colours.

The nano still has the slightly sharper pictures, but the extra size of the Sony's screen is far more important. If we were buying an ultra-portable purely for video, this is the one we'd choose.

In the end, it's the music that matters
However, we reckon the vast majority of buyers will be prioritising music, and in this area the nano just edges it.

It quickly becomes apparent the headphones are actually a bit of a disappointment, but swap them for a more accomplished pair and the Walkman initially impresses.

Play Band of Horses' brilliant Compliments, and although it's clear that the balance isn't exactly neutral, the amount of bass weight and depth is mighty impressive, while the forward-sounding treble manages to just about avoid brightness.

What this Sony lacks is just a bit of its great rival's insight and dynamic subtlety.

Play The Far Road from Nick Cave's soundtrack to The Road, and the subtleties of the piano and violins are lost, leading to a slightly flat delivery.

So, although the Sony's in many ways a more successful video player than the Apple, music-wise it's clearly weaker, and sound quality has to be our priority with ultra-portables such as these.

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What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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