Gadget Review: Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker W-Series Walkman

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Sure it’s only a PSP game, but Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is undoubtedly one of the preeminent game launches of 2010, and to promote it Konami assembled perhaps the most extensive cross-promotional marketing campaign since Halo 3. From T-shirt collections to headsets to Monster Hunter tie-ins to special edition PSP bundles, Peace Walker has been attached to many products, brands and franchises.

Among the many tie-in products is the Peace Walker-themed W-Series Walkman MP3 player from Sony, which I’ve had the pleasure of playing around with for the past couple weeks. On top of the music playback functionality I’ll dig into in a moment, this Limited Edition version of Sony’s latest Walkman reboot comes with a few extra-special bonuses other W-Series models do not have.

Those features include 6 pre-loaded songs from the Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker soundtrack (roughly 25 minutes of music), a voucher code to access exclusive in-game bonus characters sporting Walkman apparel, and a camouflage paint scheme perfectly suited for sneaking through jungles unseen while listening to your favorite tunes…Solid Snake style!

The Walkman itself is an all-in-one MP3 player mainly designed for short-use outdoor/exercise activities like jogging, working out, or mowing the lawn, but is also more than capable as an all-purpose portable music player.

Form factor is the new Walkman’s standout feature. In contrast to many other MP3 players that are designed with a base storage unit to use in tandem with a pair of earbuds, the W-Series Walkman has its storage and playback controls built directly into a sleek pair of headphones linked together by a short, flexible cable that comfortably wraps around the back of your head like most modern earmuffs. Volume buttons and a jog lever for cycling through music are located on the underside of the right earpiece (shuffle is the lone button on the left side), and while it is initially somewhat awkward poking around your ear to pinpoint the tiny buttons, the feel actually becomes quite natural once you familiarize yourself with the button locations and break the habit of relying on a handheld player or remote.

This compact construction allows you to exercise or perform other strenuous activities without the hassle of headphone wires tangling up or flopping around, and the device fits snuggly into your ears, so you don’t have to worry about it falling off either. Sony also designed the unit to be water resistant to repel sweat and other limited-exposure moisture – it is not water proof, though, so don’t go dunking it under water or anything.

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At 2GB (approximately 1.68GB you can actually use), storage space is somewhat limited, but there’s still ample room for 400-500 songs (470 MP3s of 4 minute length at 128 kbps is the estimated average), which is more than enough if you ask me. Moving content to and from the device couldn’t be any easier either, with provided content transfer software employing an intuitive drag-and-drop interface and an automatic transfer option for importing music directly from iTunes or Windows Media Player.

Battery life is very strong as well. Sony’s official estimate is 11 hours, but I left the system running continuously for 13 hours before the power light began blinking red indicating imminent shutdown. Once the battery is low, recharging is as simple as hooking the Walkman up to a PC using the provided USB cable, with a 3-minute quick charge feature providing up to 90 minutes of playback (a full recharge takes between 1-2 hours).

I do love the overall design of Sony’s new Walkman. However, after extended use I did discover a slight problem. The device as a whole is incredibly comfortable to wear, but whenever I used it for long stretches – say 45-60 minutes at a time or longer — the earbuds did cause the inside of my ears to ache a bit. Not to the point of being painful or truly uncomfortable, but just enough to break the natural, unnoticeable feel the device had when I would first strap it on.

Rubber earbud covers are provided in three different sizes right out of the box, but in my experience it didn’t seem to matter which size I used. Of course, almost every earbud I’ve tried has caused me the same trouble – I much prefer over-the-ear headphones – so my ears may just be more sensitive than others. The problem certainly wasn’t alarming enough to prompt me to stop using the device either, so unless you have ear issues you shouldn’t have a problem with it.

While it won’t topple the iPod as the go-to media player any time soon, the W-Series Walkman — Metal Gear Solid theme or not – is a remarkable little device. As an all-in-one MP3 player, it delivers rich audio quality and intuitive ergonomics, and for only $60 it is an outstanding low-cost music player for consumers on a budget, a must-have for active bodies who like to listen to music while working out and an essential iPod backup for on-the-go audiophiles.

The W-Series Walkman, including the Limited Edition Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker model, is available now at Sony Style for $59.95. A special bundle is also on offer (though currently on backorder) containing the Walkman, a PSP traveler case, a UMD travel case, and the full Peace Walker PSP Entertainment Pack (“Spirited Green” PSP-3000 system, Peace Walker game on UMD, 2GB Memory Stick, and PSN movie voucher) for $289.92.

Product Source: Walkman review unit provided on loan by Sony.

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!