Sony is bringing back the 1990s with its new Walkman NW-ZX2 aimed at "high-end audiophiles" – but it comes at a high-end price.
The company has been trying to reinvent the Walkman brand, which sold 220 million cassette players before MP3 players, iPods and smartphones rendered it a relic of the past.
But the ZX2 was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week, promising "jaw-dropping sound quality" with S-Master HX technology.
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Users can also play videos and download games from the Google Play store on the new ZX2, albeit using Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, software first debuted back in November 2012.
"However, that is where the similarities with smartphones end," says Aaron Mamiit at Tech Times, "as the Walkman ZX2 was not developed to go head-to-head with the high-end smartphones of today."
The ZX2 was designed "exclusively with high-end audiophiles in mind", says The Verge's Ross Miller, who tried it out on the floor of CES 2015 in Las Vegas. He admits he wasn't a fan of the ZX1 but says he "loves" the new ZX2.
"I love the texture of its matte black casing. I love the playback buttons carved into its curved side – in the little time I've had to hold the device, my fingers curled right onto the play, pause, and rewind," he says. "It's heavier than you'd initially expect, in a good way. It's solid."
Along with its touchscreen display, the ZX2 has wifi, Bluetooth and NFC connectivity and supports many media file formats, including WAV, DSD, AIFF, FLAC and Apple Lossless. It also has 128GB of built-in memory, upgradable to 256GB with an optional microSD card, and provides up to 60 hours of battery life when playing MP3 or 33 hours of hi-res per charge.
But it comes at a cost. "You might have paid £10 for your first Walkman. You could pay almost £1,000 for your next," says Andrew Griffin at The Independent.
The new ZX2 looks set to be priced at around £949 when it goes on sale in the spring, almost double the cost of the ZX1, which can be bought for £549.
Ty Pendlebury at CNET says the device looks as premium as you would expect from the price tag, with a carved aluminium case and a satisfyingly thick headphone jack.
"As the inventor of portable audio, Sony has taken numerous stabs at making players for a modern user, but the new ZX2 looks to be the closest to hitting the mark yet," he adds.
Sony also recommends teaming it up with a £719 USB headphone amplifier and a set of £549 MDR0Z7 headphones, taking the total cost to £2,217.
"All in all it looks like a delightful little audio player, if you care deeply about the quality of the music you are carrying in your pocket," says Gizmodo.
"But asking people to pay so much for an audio player that runs a two-year-old version of Android? Overkill. 128GB will fill up quickly as you load up those hi-res audio files, which seems not entirely sane. If you miss the '90s that much, Saved by the Bell is on Netflix."
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