Available in white, blue, black, and pink with matching color ear buds, the E300 series will be available in October of 2005. The NW-E305 is offered in coconut white or tropical ice blue with 512MB of storage. The NWE307 comes in cotton candy pink or licorice black with 1GB of storage.
The NW-HD5 is a handsomely built rugged hard-drive-based player. Featuring a whopping 20GB (roughly 1 3 K songs) of storage, this player could conceivably carry your entire music collection. Featuring a removable and rechargeable battery (if your battery fails, you won't have to send in your entire player for repairs), the NW-HD5 supports a mind-boggling 40 hours of battery life, according to Sony, compared to 15 hours using the 20GB iPod. The display is a 1.5" bi-directional and bright backlit LCD supporting seven lines of text, with views in both vertical and horizontal orientations. If you turn on the unit with the player held horizontally, the screen displays horizontally, and vice versa—a very clever design. Navigation is intuitive using bi-directional navigation buttons, without the unnecessary frills and extra menu options found on other players. The NW-HD5 includes GSensor Shock Protection, which means, according to Sony, that you never have to worry about dropping this baby. The player senses weightlessness when dropped and immediately disengages the hard drive, rendering the player impervious to all but the most crushing of a c c i d e n t a l blows. The N W - H D 5 series plays native MP3 a n d ATRAC3 audio form a t s and supp o r t s W M A a n d WAV. If you have a ton of music like I do, and if your cross-country jaunts are spent behind earphones or pumped through a car stereo, this may be the player for you. The NW-HD5 is available in red, black, or silver with 20GB of storage.
I mentioned that the Sony Network Series supports WAV and WMA audio files. Supports, yes; plays, no. You'll have to convert these files to either MP3 or ATRAC3 audio files using the supplied SonicStage software before you can play them. I applaud the fact that Sony players now play MP3 as well as ATRAC3 audio files, but I would still like to see them be able to handle lossless audio compression formats (all Apple players can store and play lossless compression formats, whereas none of the Sony players can). You'll just have to decide for yourselves whether lossless compression is a feature you need or want in a personal player.
Overall, Sony's new players distinguish themselves from the competition with extremely long battery life, bright displays, gorgeous styling, FM tuners on select models, and—for the NWHD5 hard drive-based player—the compelling G-Sensor Shock Protection feature. Apple, of course, has become the market leader with simple designs, a highly intuitive user interface, the very popular iTunes online music store, and native support for many different audio formats— some that provide efficient but lossy file compression, and others that offer lossless compression with true CDquality sound.