Vendors who had taken a shot or two at the sports MP3 player market will tell you that it's not an easy market to breed success. Often, such products are complicated and rarely strike the right balance between form and functionality. The new NW-S203F Sports MP3 player is the latest effort from Sony to entice sports enthusiasts and it seems to be a stunning reply to the recent partnership between Apple and Nike.
A Singing Cylinder
As per Sony product, industrial design for the Sony NW-S203F is simply outstanding. Never mind the boring monochrome display and limited song capacity of 2GB, the revolutionary cylinder design masterstroke is more than awe inspiring to compensate for its rather dated product specifications. Manufactured out of brushed lightweight aluminum, the ergonomic NW-S203F clearly has sports enthusiasts in mind. The extent of thought is further exemplified by the waterproof USB port for data transfer and an armband specifically tailored to secure the player to your arm.
What’s remarkable about this player is how its built-in pedometer intelligently detects and records down the number of steps you take. Simply enter your height and weight and the player will tell you how far you have ran and how much calories you have burned - runners should note that just like every other portable device in this category, inclines and declines cannot be accurately recorded and results should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Calorie counting aside, the G-sensor within the player can also detect both your walking and running pace and adapt its playlist accordingly (from a pre-arranged playlist).
It can also switch between shuffle and normal play modes by shaking the player three times when the display is facing up.
Along its length lies a discrete set of petite buttons as well as a sliding knob for file navigation. Though the design of the controls fits complements the overall design of the player, the unconventional layout means users will need spend some time to master the player – the effect of going with a brazen concept design. Also, because the controls are fabricated out of small plastic pieces, we couldn't help but have the impression that the NW-S203F is more fragile than it looks.
We brought the NW-S203F for a spin and sure enough the player attracted numerous gazes of curiosity, but what really surprised us was its strong and clean radio reception. Digital music playback however was a tad disappointing, lacking body and bass was also not as strong as expected of a Sony product. Even so, the audio quality of the NW-S203F was still better than most digital audio players we tested.
Overall, we are pretty impressed by the aesthetics of the Sony NW-S203F, but it would have been nicer if the Sony NW-S203F had larger capacities or even A2DP for wireless freedom. With a unique design, built-in pedometer, good audio and FM radio, sports enthusiasts should take a serious look at the most elegant audio companion for working out to date.