Design and handling
What’s in the box? A proprietary USB cable, a CD, a guide, MDR-EX082 headphones and the device itself of course. At 46 g, (less than 9 cm long, 3/4 cm thick) it clearly is in the lightweight category.Three colours are available but we like the black one best for its luxury feel. The interface looks much like the PlayStation 3/ Bravia interface and is one of the best available on the market.
Navigating with the buttons/dials is easy as pie and can put some touchscreens to shame. Navigation within songs can be done either by tag or folder. There is also a SensMe mode (Sony's equivalent- and predecessor- of Apple's Genius).
Sony’s strange choice of formats makes it loose a star. Though they have well abandoned their proprietary format for a long time now, we are still limited to the MP3/WMA/AAC trio. While AAC is an excellent format, on such a high-end player, one would have expected to find OGG and FLAC lossless too.
How wonderful to see that Sony provides good headphones!
The supplied semi-intra-aural earphones are decent and quite satisfying in terms of audio quality. They are far from perfect, but here (as with the ep-830 and Zen X-Fi) it is not necessary to replace them. The S638 will be even better off with better quality in-ears such as the Q-Jays or the SA-6.
The band equalizers are pretty good; however best to stay away from these technological sound enhancements (here they compete with those by Creative).
The earphone output is very clear and powerful; you will have no problems using most headphones and intra-aurals, as long as you do not go near to high impedance hi-fi gear.
Like most players, video and photo are really there just to be there and remain of little interest. However the display is good, which is not always the case. The FM tuner is reliable too. It would have nice to be able to record the radio and have RDS support (Radio Data System).
In terms of battery life: 40 hours were announced and 39 reached during our tests. We clap our hands.
The S638F is not perfect but is certainly an excellent player that will suit many people. Especially as Sony had the nice thought of providing decent earphones…others should follow this example!
- Audio quality
- Battery life
- Easy to use
- Does not read that many formats
A good product that comes with good quality earphones: well done Sony!