Two years ago I reviewed the Sony NWZ-W260. In that review I said it was “quite simply the best running headset I have yet tried”. Between then and now I’ve used it pretty consistently and not found anything better.
I’ve now been sent the latest version of this headset, the Sony NWZ-W273. What’s new this time round? Well, the primary change is that the earpieces are a bit smaller. The headset is waterproof so Sony says you could use it for swimming as well as for other training activities.
The key feature of the Sony NWZ-W273 is that it is wire free. There’s no need to carry a store for your music such as an iPod nano as 4GB of memory and all the wizardry needed to play tunes is built into the earpieces. This means there are no a trailing wires running down your back into a player. Even if you use a smartphone for an app that maps and measures your activities, you might like the wire free concept and be prepared to carry both phone and the NWZ-W273.
There are four key ways in which the Sony NWZ-W273 could fail. The fit in your ear could be dodgy. The general fit round your head could be insecure. The battery life could be poor. And it could let water in.
The fit is really good both in the ear and round the head. You get four pairs of silicon earbuds provided in a range of sizes so you can get them snug in your ear. The band that connects the two speakers looks way too flimsy to hold the thing around your head, but in my experience it just works. Wearing glasses didn’t even seem to cause any problems.
I did have a problem with the buds falling out of my ears from time to time when running due to sweat, but that was a marginal problem and soon fixed when I got the earbud size right.
Don’t worry about feeling the weight of the Sony NWZ-W273. 29g is really nothing at all, and lighter than the predecessor model by a couple of grams. You won’t notice it at all.
Battery life is very good – certainly good enough for me. It takes about an hour and a half to give the battery a full charge, and with that done you have eight hours of playback time. If you find yourself in need and have not used the device for a while then just three minutes of charging gives 60 minutes of battery life. You could set it on charge while you get your kit on, and by the time you are ready to go it should have enough battery power to see you through whatever it is you plan to do.
The irritation as far as the battery is concerned is that charging is done via a cradle. The charge unit is a bit bulky for carrying around, but at least it is USB and you could charge through a laptop or a mains power adaptor that you use for other USB based charging kit. The older Sony NWZ-W260 has the edge here as it charges via microUSB.
Sony says you can use the NWZ-W273 while swimming, which I have to admit I did not try. I am dubious about the ability of the buds to stay in your ears while you are trawling through the water, though if you are one of those breast stroke swimmers who never puts their head in the water you should be OK. I did wear it in the shower and it survived that particular test.
Getting music on and off is a simple drag and drop exercise because as soon as you connect the NWZ-W273 to your computer via the charge cradle it appears as a drive. It plays MP3, WMA, AAC and Linear PCM. It doesn’t even mind if you keep music in folders, so you could group tracks for faster or slower paced work, by mood or by artist and riffle through on the device till you get the set you want.
Music quality is not too shabby either. No, it isn’t the best in the world, but it is certainly good enough and if you are exercising then your critical faculties aren’t likely to be too concerned about getting top notch quality. It is a testament to the music quality that because of the ease of use I found myself loading new albums and using the NWZ-W273 as a player while travelling or sitting around the house.
The controls are all ranged around the edges of the earpieces. They are all a bit small, and despite being contoured and having little nubs on them I found them difficult to find by touch alone, and considerably more difficult to use than those on the slightly larger predecessor NWZ-W260. Usability got harder as my hands got sweatier.
On the other hand there are two controls on the bottom of each earpiece, one a round button the other a rocker, and it isn’t exactly difficult to remember what is on the left and what is on the right. The right earpiece adds the on/off button and a lock button on its short outer edge.
The level of control you have is not mouldbreaking, You can shuffle tracks rather than play them in order, pause and skip tracks. But really, that’s all you need, isn’t it?
The Sony NWZ-W273 is an extremely neat, easy to use music player. I’m not convinced it is ideal for swimmers, but for running or any other kind of exertion it is superb. Smaller and lighter than its predecessor, it is perhaps hampered by its charge unit which adds bulk when you are travelling and by small control buttons which I found fiddly.
- Extremely light
- Good battery
- Fast charge for an hour’s life
- Good music quality
- Slightly small buttons
- Bulky cradle
- Probably not completely reliable for swimming