Playstation 4 and Xbox 1 may have the headlines right now, however there are other products that were released on this month that are also worth of mentioning. One of them is the new DAP from Sony: the NWZ-F886 which it was released at the beginning of this month (November 2013). This unit was pre-ordered near the close of September from the sony.co.uk site.
-From left to right: Sony Walkman NWZ-F886, Sony XBA-30 Balanced Armature Headphones, CKH-NWF880 Plastic Cover and Screen Protector.
-The packaging is quite easy to open and there is no need to rip it apart.
-With both the plastic cover and the screen protector set. The pouch on the left is given with the XBA-30 headphones so it is possible to store and protect them.
-It turns on no problem, not blinking blue lights or any other similar behaviour.
The first thing can be noticed when the device is just turned on and it reaches the android desktop is the screen... it is stunning. Admittedly, compared to a PSVita the OLED screen looks better, but the screen on the NWZ-F886 is very close to it, perhaps the most noticeable difference are the blacks, which are a little less on the Walkman and well defined on the vita. Yet the impression stills there.
Second thing are... real buttons! Yes, This little handy device possess the extremely useful set of: Previous button, Play Pause button, Next button and volume controls but more on that later.
Third thing is size and weight. The size of it is comparable to my Motorola RAZRi XT890, it is however, very light even with plastic cover attached.
Fourth thing is that it has a metallic or a very convincing metallic body on the back, except for the NFC part, giving it a very premium fell.
-Not formal screen comparison between the PS Vita, the Walkman NWZ-F886 and the RAZRi (Pentile Screen) (Also size). All the devices are set to 50% brightness.
The player has been tested for around a week, mostly playing music files. Said files are AAC 192 Kbps.
First, I had to load the whole library of my previous Walkman, the formidable NWZ-S545:
-The veteran NWZ-S545 Walkman. This version had 16 GB of internal memory and was replaced by the NWZ-F886 since the memory was almost full.
The library consisted of around 2700+ sounds, which the database of the NWZ-F886 took 1 minute to process. It is quite fast and the device shows you that it is doing that on the notification bar, simply by showing "Updating Database..." and after that it's ready to go.
The Walkman Application.
Pre-installed in the device comes the Walkman Application for playing the music files, it can be accessed by either the widget on the android desktop or the lower left shortcut, left to the all apps android button.
-Main screen and short-cuts.
Once opened, the following screen can be seen:
-Walkman main screen.
At first a pop-up screen will appear explaining the controls shown on screen, just pressing ok dismisses it. As it is if the play button is pressed, it simply starts playing all the music on the device. the shuffle icon above the "next song" button can be conveniently toggled on and off, same with the icon on the right. Swiping right shows the information of the song that it's currently being played:
-Current song properties.
Whilst swiping left shows the current play list, note that this will change if the shuffle option is activated.
-Play list screen.
Pressing the upper left screen button of the Walkman application allows to select other songs, according to album, artist... etc. A particular welcomed option is the one that allows playback by folders:
-Playback mode selection screen. Note that this has been changed to only shows those three options but this can be modified.
Selecting the three squares column on the upper left brings even more options:
-Options of the Main Screen.
Which leads us to the Sound Adjustment part and from there a very familiar screen:
-Other options within the Sound Enhancements tab.
Note that the physical playback buttons on the device are very usable with the device either locked or either unlocked. When locked, the player is still responsive to the buttons, so it's possible to let the screen to turn off itself and the playback doesn't stop. The only way to turn on the screen is using the physical power button on the top of it.
The NWZ-F886 belongs to the audiophile range. It sports a new S-Master HX amplifier, created for this device and the NWZ-HX1. The XBA-30 earphones are known to have a plain curvature response (no v-shaped, i.e. no bass or treble emphasis), which coupled with this device and all of the audio enhancements disabled offered the following particular experience:
Bass is dry and clear, treble is crisp, mediums and vocals sound phenomenal. It is a great upgrade from the NWZ-S545, which unfortunately could not drive the XBA-30 for direct comparison (bass was completely missing) Overall is a very neutral player with an excellent soundstage.
Note that the Balanced Armatures in the XBA-30 refer to another type of "speakers" within the earphone, instead of using cones, it uses very thin plates to generate sound. The XBA-30 processes 3 Balanced Armatures, one for bass, another for medium frequencies and a last one for treble. The effect on this is a very wide soundstage on the device, meaning that a lot of instruments can be differentiated from each other and there is not muffling on them, e.g. when bass is very strong the other instruments don't fade.
With a device like this it may be expected to have a camera, however, this is not present in it. Being a dedicated DAP however this is to be expected, nonetheless due its wireless capabilities and NFC, paring an external camera is fast and reliable:
-The DSC-QX100 camera attached to the NWZ-F886.
This is possible using either a QX10 or QX100 camera and the PlayMemories mobile application from the Android Store:
-PlayMemories Mobile acts as the screen of the QX-100 Camera.
A particular improvement of this camera in the NWZ-F886, compared to using it with the XT890 Motorola RAZRi phone, is that whilst the former offers a seamless experience (no hiccups) the latter suffers from pauses of up to two seconds at random intervals, thus the experience using the QX100 with the NWZ-F886 is far better. The quality on the photos is also impressive, as it can be seen in this very own article where the Logitech C920 Webcam photos can be easily discerned from the ones of the QX100.
Android and Battery Usage.
The NWZ-F886 comes with Android 4.1.1:
-Android "About Device" Screen
This android version has been little modified, almost the vanilla experience. There are no other pre-installed programs other than the Walkman application, a photo viewer, a video player and a radio application. Hence the device feels very responsive. It is of interest the Application RAM consumption shown in Android:
-Android Application RAM consumption.
This is because whilst the device is known to have 1 GB of memory, the total RAM displayed doesn't add up, an hypotheses of this might be that the Walkman Application is running on memory, but this cannot be seen by the end user, perhaps that may explain why it is possible to use the hardware buttons without waking up the device. As for the battery consumption it can be said that it is excellent so far:
-Battery consumption screen.
The device was charged up to 100% around Saturday 8 am and then unplugged from the mains. On Monday, 11 hours later (97% battery) the device was taken to a field trip, which was 30 minutes to go and 45 to return, all of which the player remained playing shuffled music whilst constantly pressing the next button to hear the next song faster (sometimes songs were skipped altogether) and was left locked the rest of the day (87%), the next day two trips taxed another 2:30 hours on continuous play and finally on Wednesday (today) at around 12 pm after an email check and a fast web-page checking the battery remained at 56%.
Android, Other Programs.
The next screen displays some of the current programs installed on the NWZ-F886:
All of them which work fine, there is also the "Power Toggles" application, hidden in the notification bar. This program is very useful to lock the device without pressing the power button, as well for controlling brightness and other handy short-cuts. It also works no problem.
PowerAmp also works, however, hardware buttons then to obey the Walkman application rather than PowerAmp.
The Walkman NWZ-F886 is an excellent device for its purpose: listening to music with high-fidelity. It is not a flagship Android device, but it avoids a lot of problems, such as the ones shown in http://www.youtube.c...KAp1yZDhM#t=853, thanks to a very mature OS and the Walkman Application. Of course it also offers the versatility of many applications on the Android store, however, it is still mainly an audiophile DAP.
It does not have expandable memory, however being the case that this Walkman can support external DACs using the cable http://www.sony.jp/w...-NWH10/store-w/ , it's highly feasible that in future some sdcards adaptors may appear.
This device has a WM port in it rather than a standard USB, this has been always the case with the Sony DAPs with a few exceptions, however the cable is included and no further difficulty is found using it.
Overall an excellent choice for the Audiophile crowd at an affordable price. Highly recommended, specially with its price tag of 224 Pounds (using academic discount) at the Sony store.
Edit: Please feel free to ask any questions about the device.