I was given an iPod (I think they call it a third generation) sometime ago by work and I was quite excited about getting it, trouble was it turned out to be particularly unreliable with the battery running flat while it was switched off, the whole device locking up for no reason, and all sorts of issues.
So I was even happier to see Sony had brought out some new MP3 Players, regardless of their issues with the now famous rootkit, they have consistently made superior audio devices that also look good and are packed with usability and features.
So I was even more excited when I was allowed to get one as payment for taking some work party photographs. Then came the problems.
Let me get this straight right from the outset, the player itself is wonderful. I have the Sony NW-A3000, a 20Gb MP3 player with a sleek black finish and an ultra cool display. To that I’ve added some Sony embedded headphones and that has given me such a superb audio quality. I totally love it.
Yet the problems come. The software is perhaps one of the worst pieces of software I’ve ever used, and the confusion with my existing Sony Net MiniDisc and its software causes more and more problems.
So let me start by saying that the MP3 Player itself is fantastic. It looks great, plays wonderfully, the battery lasts for ages, the features are superb, overall it’s the best player I’ve ever had my hands on.
Now, let’s look at the software. Rather than write some lengthy prose about what I found wrong, let me just list it out. Here are some handy definitions first.
Connect – The software provided with the player to manage the songs, playlists and also connect to the Sony Connect Music Store to purchase and download new tunes.
SonicStage – The software provided with the Sony NetMD that does the same as Connect, just older.
- Connect takes an absolute age to start up
- The speed of initialising or synchronising between Connect and the Player is a lengthy process
- The floppy drive was always accessed multiple times while Connect started – I have since disabled it in the hardware list!
- Connect is difficult to get used to from the fast and friendly iTunes
- Connect has extremely slow responses onscreen. You can select something and see nothing happening onscreen, a few moments later the action magically occurs!
- There is no facility to transfer existing music from iTunes to Connect – I had to cut them to CD and then import them again
- Interestingly, after I installed the new software, the old Net MD software SonicStage can see both devices, the new Connect software can only see the NW-A3000. Why can’t it control both?
- While trying to burn CD’s from iTunes I couldn’t add music to CD’s I’d already cut to, it seemed to be a one cut per CD option (At least one there for iTunes during the transfer process!)
- While running Connect there seems to be continual Hard Drive churning
- When deleting\altering\editing content on the Connect screen you will find that the action is not always taken – it runs slowly and sometimes misses keystrokes, reverting back to the previous entry
- If the library list updates while you’re editing a field on a song the field update can get copied to the song sitting in the new position after the update – that’s weird!
- There is no way of transferring playlists created in Connect to the player. So the playlists you create in Connect have to be manually copied over to the player, and if you change anything in the playlists, you have to manually make sure you make these changes to the playlists showing under the player as well – Why isn’t that automatically updated?
- Connect doesn’t appear to update the library. If you import a song it points to the location you told it to import from, unlike iTunes which copies the file into your Music folder and into a file structure if you so desire
- When I deleted something from a playlist on the Player through Connect it disappeared and then a moment later it reappeared!
- There were errors on transferring tracks to the Player that worked fine on iTunes, and there’s no explanation
- Connect can’t just play tunes from your library as you’d expect, you have to copy the tunes to either a local playlist or have them displayed in your “Now Playing” window. Basically, if you want to play all your library, you have to recopy the whole library to the Now Playing window, and that’s just daft
- A number of times while I’ve been using it the Explorer Bar just stopped working. Alt-Tab to applications worked okay but the start menu, etc stopped for over three minutes then all the buffered keystrokes flew through the PC!
- When I was playing music while the player was being updated, if I clicked to start playing the next song the software took 15-30 seconds to catch up and display the correct information. On Connect it showed that it was still playing the previous track when the new one was coming out of the speakers!
- You can’t really do anything while Connect is updating the player, otherwise any changes taken are automatically reverted in front of your eyes, suddenly reappearing minutes later. Scrolling through the library list just repeatedly pulls you back to where your cursor was before you started scrolling!
- I had to rip CD’s with Media Player to import songs as Connect would not recognise the purchased CD. This was possibly because it is data\music on one disc.
- If you remove a CD when it’s been detected by the software Connect uses to download title information from the Internet, it starts throwing up errors which keep repeating
- You can’t easily see what song is in which playlist without looking at playlists, so if you’re looking to see what songs aren’t in a playlist you’re goosed
- Errors display in a small corner of Connects window frame, they can often be too big for the small text area, hence messages such as “The selected track could not be played because…”
- Despite me specifying a folder for the Connect software to “watch”, changes and additions to songs within that folder and subdirectories are not always reflected in the library. For instance I added five songs and only two were picked up, the others I had to manually import and suddenly they were listed twice with different details!
- When I attempted to log into Sony’s Connect Store I was told I couldn’t log in with my existing account that I used with SonicStage and the Net MD. I had to create a new one separate for the new Player, and then found that this was clashing with the old one…frankly, this was a mess and I had to contact support to sort it out
- There’s a distinct lack of music on offer in the Sony store in comparison to that on offer through iTunes
- The Player continually connects to the PC showing “connecting” onscreen. It goes to sleep for a bit and everything seems to have finished then it starts again
- Lastly, and this is just so far, I tried to download a couple of acoustic tracks I found on Sony Connect store, unfortunately it just displayed an error page whenever I tried to purchase them. Now, bear in mind that I’ve purchased music already through the store onto my new Player through this software. Well, I contacted the support team and their suggestion? Uninstall and reinstall SP2…What?! Because a few songs didn’t work? I queried this and then was told to go and try another computer…oh dear. I would have been sacked for this kind of support resolution when I worked in 3rd level support
All in all it’s safe to say that the software is probably the worst piece of coding and design I’ve ever seen in my life. Can you believe that list of issues, and I’m not joking when I say that 95% of those were through the first evening of use!
However, it is without question I say that the player is superb, and the only issue I have with it is when you change track the screen is slow to update with the new track information, although it does update before playing the new track. That’s it. That’s the only thing I can think of saying about the player itself other than it’s superb. The usability and functionality, not to mention the looks and the superb audio quality. I love it.
Any chance Sony that you can either fix the current software (some user testing might be a good idea) or make it work with iTunes!
The problems continue. Now I’ve been sent a message from Sony to tell me that my SonicStage software requires an update, so I do just that, and this still continues to be run totally separately from the Connect software causing no end of confusion.
Then I plug my player in and run Connect only to find all my playlists have been duplicated on the player, not only that but the duplicated lists contain different numbers of songs! Yet looking at the playlists set on the computer and they’re all just fine.
What the hell is going on?!