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Wednesday, April 06, 2005
New sony HDD walkman 'apes iPod'

Sony will soon launch a new member in its hard-disk drive-based Network Walkman family, its fourth so far, and this time the new player is more than an update to the previous model.

The most immediately obvious difference between the NW-HD5 and Sony's previous three models is in the design. While the previous players were based on a landscape design that had users holding the player horizontally in their hands, the NW-HD5 is based around a portrait design in which the display sits above the controls. This is more akin to competing products, including Apple's iPod. Sony hasn't abandoned the landscape design completely, as the image on the display can be rotated a quarter of a turn should users want to hold it on its side.

The circular control pad has been replaced by nine buttons. The display has also been changed to an LED (light emitting diode)-backlit 1.5-inch LCD (liquid crystal display) from a similar sized organic LED (OLED) display.

Like the previous models, the NW-HD5 packs a 20GB hard-disk drive. It supports Sony's ATRAC3 and ATRAC3plus compression formats, Windows Media Audio, WAV files and the popular MP3 format. It also has the same selection of menu languages: Japanese, English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

Good news for people on the move is a removable battery that, according to Sony, lasts longer. It provides enough power for 40 hours of continuos playback when measured with the lowest-fidelity files. Playback of MP3 files encoded at 128Kbps, one of the most common MP3 compression settings, is 30 hours, according to Sony. The equivalent times for Sony's previous model, the NW-HD3, are 30 hours and 22 hours, respectively.

Other changes include the addition of a USB (Universal Serial Bus) port and power jack on the player; previous models required the use of an adapter.

To top it off, Sony managed to make the NW-HD5 smaller than its predecessor, at 60 millimeters (mm) by 89 mm by 14 mm. It weighs 135 grams.

The device will also go on sale at a lower price. It will cost around ?35,000 (US$327) when it goes on sale in Japan on April 21. Sony plans to sell the player worldwide and will announce launch details for other markets shortly, it said.

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