As of the beginning of 2003 the NW-MS9 is Sony’s premier mp3 player, or “network walkman” as they prefer to call it. The player easily fits inside a packet of 10 cigarettes and weighs only 2.4 ounces so it is extremely compact. The player has one memory stick port and comes with a magicgate 64Mb stick, which is enough for about 80 minutes of music. The player only supports Sony’s ATRAC3 format, which is a thinly veiled attempt at copy protection. The player also comes with a rechargeable NiMH battery which lasts for 10 hours when charged for 3 (in the UK, those not “blessed” with our 240V system have to wait longer).

I’ve owned it for about 6 months now and there are a few problems with the player as it grows with age. I bought this for running. I can’t run without music, I need some displacement activity so that I don’t concentrate on the pain, and a mp3 player is not meant to skip so I bought one. All was fantastic for about 4 months (of daily 20 minute runs) until it stopped working complaining of lack of battery. I knew this was a blatant lie as I had charged it only that morning, upon examination I found that if I remove the battery and replaced it everything became fine once more. It seems that both the battery cover and memory stick port had become damaged so occasionally a heavy “jog” could dislodge one or the other and either give me a frustrating <“STICK ERROR” or an infuriating BEEP as the battery died on me as I was coming to a hill.

The OpenMG software that comes with it is pathetic. All I want to do is move mp3s from directory X to my mp3 player. A utility that could allow me to drag and drop into a removable drive would be fine, however Sony wants me to “manage” my music, place it into playlists, then translate it to ATRAC3, and then transfer it across. It’s clunky, slow and completely counter-intuitive. It’s got to a point where I change the line up of songs on my mp3 player once a month because it’s such a chore.

For some reason someone decided that the NW-MS9 would make a great key chain, so affixed a tiny clip to the back of the player which looks completely out of place when compared to the rest of the sleek, smooth design (this doesn’t really bother me but does suggest someone at Sony is a couple of ants short of a picnic).

In short if Sony wants to make something that’s main selling point is that it does not skip then they should make sure that the music isn’t going to be affected by other aspects of the design. It seems monumentally dim to produce a lovely piece of kit that is difficult to use and, though it never skips, after intensive use gives up on you because of infuriating design flaws.

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