The latest from Sony, the NWZ-B153F is a basic pen-drive MP3 player with additional features over the previous NWZ-B-series of players. In a world where smartphones come with more than capable music playback prowess, let’s see what this pen-drive jukebox has to hold its ground.
Sony has packed the NWZ-B153F with essential features like 4GB of internal memory, FM radio with recording, Voice recording via its built-in microphone and drag-drop support. The NWZ-B153F plays only MP3 and WMA files which is disappointing as players like Cowon E2 let you play FLAC and OGG too. The player features the ZAPPIN function which plays the chorus of the next tracks quickly – to make finding tracks easier. We found this useful but it is not a feature we can’t live without. There is also a Bass On feature with a dedicated button which was not present on the previous model, the NWZ-B143F. The LED around the rotary dial starts blinking when the Bass mode is activated and we wish there was an option to turn the blinking LED off.
Turning on the Bass feature does get some thump in but it also introduces muddiness, disturbing the overall sound quality.
The player comes with a unique and useful 3-minutes quick charge feature that charges the built-in battery to last at least 90 minutes of playback. When fully charged, the battery has a rated playback time of 18 hours. The player comes with Sony’s regular earbuds and no other accessories.
Design & Usability
Design wise, the NWZ-B153F has a lipstick form factor with the USB-drive built-in protected by a plastic cap. Sony has not done much to make this player look different than the other B-series MP3 players apart from the new navigational wheel. It’s not as sleek and classy as the iPod Shuffle but the pen drive form factor is more functional and comes with a screen. The screen is good enough to let you browse menus and playlists but don’t expect it to let you view your album art as it is just a 3-line LCD.
The body is made of shiny plastic which attracts fingerprints, but due to the body being filled up with buttons, smudging isn't an issue. We received the pink-cap and black body combination which I think suits the younger crowd, but there are other variants like black, red and gold color too. The build quality is good enough to withstand a few drops but the loosely fitted USB-cap would require good care.
We had an acceptable experience during our usage - which could have been better if Sony opted for the regular directional flat pad like it did for the NWZ-B143F. Unfortunately, using this new directional wheel on the NWZ-B153F is a hit or miss, and we strongly recommend you give a try before you buy. Even though the rotating wheel navigation sounds interesting, it is more of a fancy feature and not the most ergonomic in actual usage. The buttons on the front and sides are conveniently located and it has all basic shortcuts for easier operation.
The player took one hour to fully charge the battery via the PC USB port and the 3-minute quick charge feature also worked as advertised. Battery life without using the Bass feature is close to the rated 18 hours which is good enough.
When it comes to audio quality, the NWZ-B153 with its bundled earbuds did a fairly good job with well defined midrange along with subtle bass and highs. Turning on the Bass feature does get some thump in but it also introduces muddiness, disturbing the overall sound quality. Plugging in our own in-ears (Apple In-Ear, Soundmagic PL30, Sennheiser CX300 and Philips SHE9800), the sound was a bit bass heavy with the “Bass on" mode and we preferred to keep the mode off throughout out testing period. Overall, sound quality is better than most of the mini MP3 players we tested before – that includes the latest iPod Shuffle and the Creative ZEN Stone Plus. It falls behind the Cowon E2 in terms of accuracy though, so, it is certainly not going to wow the audiophiles. However, for a mini MP3 player, the NWZ-B153 scores second to the Cowon iAudio E2 in terms of pure sound quality.
Priced at Rs 3,990, the Sony NWZ-B153F is a good option for users looking for a compact, sturdy and easy to carry MP3 player. Its impressive battery life and good overall sound quality makes for a balanced product which is only second to the Cowon iAudio E2 in our list of the best compact MP3 players.