Here at PC Advisor, we love outlandish claims. So we were delighted to hear Sony declare a single-charge battery life of 50 hours for its NW-S703F audio player.

To put that in context, we've never previously seen a player break the 30-hour mark in real-world tests. Indeed, we gave the latest iPods two thumbs up for registering in the mid-twenties a few months back.

So can the NW-S703F back up its claims? Well, no. But while Sony has been extremely optimistic with its estimates, it's hard to criticise a device that managed a stunning 35 hours of playback, comfortably surpassing its rivals. Highly impressive.

And as a bonus, for musical emergencies, the S703F can also charge up very quickly. After just three minutes of connection, we managed to get two hours of playback.

Looks-wise the Sony is slightly odd, but the overall effect is rather charming. It's got an attractive, shiny exterior, with an original 'twist collar' control mechanism in place of the usual scrollwheel or joypad. This takes a bit of getting used to, and probably wouldn’t be suitable for a player with a larger capacity. But we soon grew to appreciate it.

The screen is bright and clear, but it doesn't have the room to display a great deal of information. Again, this isn't a huge problem at this capacity. And merely having a screen gives the Sony one over the (admittedly much cheaper) iPod shuffle, the dominant force around the 1GB level.

Another advantage is its impressive headphones. These incorporate sound-cancelling technology – which we found moderately effective at excluding noise pollution – and produce excellent bass. What a shame, then, that the cord isn't long enough to reach from jeans pocket to ears.

The one big strike against the S703F as far as we're concerned is Sony’s SonicStage music-management software, which you are obliged to use when transferring tracks. This cannot compare with iTunes or even Windows Media Player.

Sony NW-S703F: Specs

  • Digital audio player
  • 1GB capacity
  • FM tuner
  • claimed battery life 50 hours
  • actual battery life 35 hours
  • USB cable
  • noise-cancelling headphones
  • 27x17x88mm
  • 47g
  • Digital audio player
  • 1GB capacity
  • FM tuner
  • claimed battery life 50 hours
  • actual battery life 35 hours
  • USB cable
  • noise-cancelling headphones
  • 27x17x88mm
  • 47g

OUR VERDICT

A superb battery life, attractive looks and neat (if initially confusing) controls make the Sony NW-S703F one of the stand-out offerings in its market. The software is a pain, though.

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