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Sony Walkman NWZ-B143F

The Sony Walkman NWZ-B143F is a tiny little MP3 player. It has a built-in USB jack, so you can connect it to your computer directly. It supports MP3 and WMA formats and comes in 2 and 4 GB capacities. The player also has a built-in FM radio as well as a voice recorder. The special Bass mode adds a thump to your music playback.

Design & Construction
The Sony Walkman NWZ-B143F is about as long as your index finger and just about as wide. In such a small form factor the player does pack in a lot of stuff. For starters there is a tiny LCD display on the front left, about 2cm diagonally, and can display three lines of text. The display shows white text on a blue background. The display is decent; however, I wonder why Sony did not use an LED display, as it could have helped achieve a lower battery life.

Beside the display on the right is the button for the Zappin feature and the Back key (long press takes you to Home screen). On the right are the navigation/playback keys. Pressing the up/down lets you move around the menu and go to the next/previous track during playback. In the centre is the select/play/pause button. Surrounding the centre key is a ring of orange light that comes to life when the Bass mode is activated. The lights blink around in circle to the beat of the music.

On the top side of the player is the recording key, the volume control key and the Bass key. On the bottom side is the Hold key. On the backside of the player are the holes for attaching a lanyard and a hole for the Reset button. Unfortunately, there is no clip for attaching this player to your shirt or bag. Instead of attaching and wearing a lanyard, the player will hang around the neck but I would any day take the convenience of attaching the player to my shirt using a clip like the iPod Shuffle.

The best part about the design is the built-in USB jack. Just take off the cap and plug the player into your PC to transfer your music. The player is also built very well and does not feel cheap. In fact on one occasion when the player was connected to the front USB of my PC placed on the floor, I accidentally stepped on the player causing the USB jack to bend while it was still inside the PC. After removing I tried bending the jack back and to my surprise it went back to its original state. Had it been any other player it would have either snapped or never went back to the original state. That speaks volumes of how well built the little Sony player is (and how clumsy I can be!).

UI & Navigation
The UI of the player is pretty easy to use. The main menu is in the form of four icons for the recorder, music player, FM radio and settings. All the sub-menus are in the form of lists. To navigate the menus you have to use the up/down keys on the circular navigation key and press the centre key to select. There is a dedicated back key on the left, which also takes you to the home screen when pressed and held.

The UI has one small problem and that is it can be a bit sluggish while in use, especially while going through the music lists. The fact that the display only shows three lines of text makes it a bit difficult to navigate as well.

The Now Playing screen is rather short on information. You have the song title and the artist name scrolling in the first line one after the other. Below is the name of the album. Below it is a thin like showing the playback progress and below is the track number (in the current playlist). There are some other icons for the repeat, Shuffle, Equalizer, Bass mode, battery, etc. However, there is no time display for the elapsed time or the remaining time and it is only displayed when you press and hold the track change keys to FF/Rew the track.
The player has a set of equalizer presets and also a customizable 5-band equalizer. However, the equalizer switches off when the Bass mode is activated. There is also Sony’s AVLS (Automatic Volume Limiter System).
The Sony Walkman NWZ-B143F has the Zappin feature, first seen on the W202. However, here the feature is rendered almost useless as the player has a display that can show the track title, so you don’t really need the Zappin short audio clips to recognize the song.

Performance
I first connected the player to my PC to transfer some music on to it. Unfortunately, the player does not support AAC audio format, which meant a lot of my music could not be transferred. To transfer music you can use Windows Media Player 11 or just use Windows Explorer to transfer music the old fashioned way. Sony claims support for only Windows XP and Vista but I had no problem using it on Windows 7 as well as Mac OS X Leopard. The data transfer speeds were very slow and transferring content took quite a long time. The player charges simultaneously whenever it is connected to the PC.

The default sound of the player is very good and very similar to the other Sony players we reviewed. If you are using a good pair of headphones then you would neither need to use the Bass mode nor the equalizers. However, the supplied pair of earphones isn’t one of them and hence benefit from the use of the Bass mode.
When used with good quality earphones, the boost in bass brought by the Bass mode seems unnecessary and makes the music sound boomy, especially on bass heavy tracks. It also seems to suppress the mids and highs a bit after activation. However, it is a good tool when you are using earphones/headphones that do not have a good low-end as it then makes the sound balanced by making up for the weak low-end.

The player also has a built-in FM radio and voice recorder. The performance of both of them was acceptable.

Battery Life
Sony has rated the battery life of the player at 18 hours of continuous playback. In our testing the little player managed to break the company’s rated time by achieving a solid 20 hours of continuous playback. Considering the diminutive dimensions of the player the battery life figures achieved is nothing short of amazing. However, the battery life took a major hit when the bass boost function was activated. I got 11 hours of battery life with the Bass boost switched on.

One of the best things about the Sony NWZ-B143F, as with all Sony players, is that it has the Quick Charge technology, which means the player can charge enough in three minutes to play music for 90 minutes.

Verdict
The Sony NWZ-B143F is a really nice MP3 player for those who need a small and simple device to just listen to music. It is priced at Rs. 2,890 for the 2 GB model and Rs. 3,990 for the 4 GB model. The built-in USB port makes it convenient to carry it around as you don’t need to carry the data cable with it and the presence of a display does not leave you guessing about the next song in the playlist. The excellent audio quality and the battery life make it a pretty solid performer as well. There are however a few shortcomings, such as the lack of AAC format support and the slightly sluggish UI, and a built-in clip to attach it to your clothing would have been nice as well. However, if that does not bother you too much then the Sony NWZ-B143F is a pretty fine player to invest in.

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