Sony NWE395 Walkman Review

Two layers of nostalgia at a brand-name price

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4

Sony NWE395 Walkman

Sony NWE395 Walkman

Lifewire / Jeffrey Daniel Chadwick

What We Like

  • Snappy interface and physical controls

  • Small and lightweight

  • Great FM reception

  • Solid battery

What We Don't Like

  • Manual file loading

  • Can’t play MP4 files

  • No expandable storage

Sony succeeds in bringing the Walkman into the 21st century. It’s a capable MP3 player that’s easy to use and can handle hours of music playback, but the lack of expandable storage does serve as a downside.

4

Sony NWE395 Walkman

Sony NWE395 Walkman

Lifewire / Jeffrey Daniel Chadwick

For many, the Sony Walkman brand conjures nostalgic feelings for a time when cassette tapes and FM radio were the primary way to find and listen to music. Today, the Sony NWE395 Walkman tries to continue this legacy, but it does so in a world of mobile apps and wireless connectivity. It’s a very simple MP3 player, with an interface that’s easy to use for music playback, but it does require you to try to remember how you dealt with media a decade and a half ago. 

We tested the Walkman over the course of a week, substituting it for our iPhone X’s normal audio responsibilities. Read on to see how we fared. 

Sony NWE395 Walkman
Lifewire / Jeffrey Daniel Chadwick

Design and Display: Take your music, leave your phone

The Walkman has a simple design reminiscent of the iPod, but with more physical controls. It measures a dainty 3.12 x 1.81 x 6.68 inches (LWH) and weighs less than an ounce. It’s a great fit for a purse or the coin pocket in most men’s jeans. 

The Walkman has two main functions, playing audio files and tuning into FM radio. It succeeds at both with no complaints. Once your music is loaded onto the hard drive, it’s easy to navigate to whichever every song or playlist you want. The FM radio came through loud and clear in the city and rural areas. The scanning feature even detected all the same stations as our car radio.

You can also load image files onto the Walkman, but it’s really not worth it. The 1.77-inch screen only has a display resolution of 128 x 160. This makes every image pixelated and near painful to look at for very long. 

Some popular music file types are not supported such as MP4 and M4A—two of the most common audio formats.

The physical control panel is one of the Walkman’s most solid features. It’s a simple D-pad along with three multipurpose buttons. Everything is clearly marked so there’s no question about what they do. It also has a convenient volume rocker on the side so you can turn it up and down quickly. This might seem like basic stuff, but there are budget MP3 players with frustrating controls and no physical button, so this is good to see.

One of the more aggravating things about this portable MP3 player is that it only works with MP3, AAC, WMA, and MP3 files. This is well and good if all your music is in those formats. But, some popular music file types are not supported such as MP4 and M4A—two of the most common audio formats.

During our testing, this resulted in much our music yielding an error message reading “Cannot Play; File Format Not Supported.” So you can forget about just copy-pasting your music library onto the hard drive. You’ll probably need to go through all your files to make sure the music can be played. 

One other omission is Bluetooth. Adding that feature could open the Walkman up dramatically, allowing it to connect wirelessly with Bluetooth speakers and earbuds like the Apple AirPods and Powerbeats Pro by Dre

Sony NWE395 Walkman
The Spruce / Jeffrey Daniel Chadwick

Comfort: One size doesn’t fit all

The earbuds that come with the Walkman leave a lot to be desired. They’re made entirely of plastic and feel really cheap. When we put them in our ears, we found that they were slightly too large and didn’t quite fit so we had to let them jut out just a little bit. This wasn’t too much of an inconvenience, but they did occasionally fall out of our ears while we were jamming out to Bon Jovi. 

Setup Process: Welcome to 2005

The Walkman brand name isn’t the only thing that will transport you back a few years. The way you load music and images onto this MP3 player is a bit antiquated by today’s standards. There’s no software you can use to manage your media. In order to load files onto it, you must connect it via USB to your computer, mount it as an external hard drive, and then copy the music you want into the appropriate folder. 

This is the way many MP3 players were loaded in the 2000s. However, since the introduction of iTunes to manage files on the iPod, this method has all but vanished. This is fine, if you know what you’re doing. If you don’t remember (or weren’t alive when this method was popular), it will take a few times through the process to get the hang of it.

In order to load files onto it, you must connect it via USB to your computer, mount it as an external hard drive, and then copy the music you want into the appropriate folder.

If you listen to a lot of podcasts, you’re almost out of luck with the Walkman. The manual loading technique adds quite a few steps to getting music and other content onto storage. You have to drill down deep into your files to find the podcast episodes you want, then load and listen to them as you would a regular song. The biggest problem is that you won’t get any of the benefits that a proper podcast app provides. Repeat this every day for some podcasts and it becomes wildly impractical. 

That said, the fact the Walkman mounts to your computer as an external hard drive means you can store non-audio files on it. This would be convenient if you have private or personal files you want to store or transport discreetly. 

Storage: Enough for your favorite tunes, but nothing more

The Walkman we tested had 16GB of onboard storage, which doesn’t sound like much by today’s smartphone standards, however, it’s pretty hefty when you only fill it with music. You can expect to get around 4,000 songs onto it, and that should be enough for a good collection though you probably can’t get your entire Spotify playlist there. 

If you feel like disconnecting from the world of apps, emails and text and just enjoy your music, the Sony NWE395 Walkman is worthy of consideration. 

However, one big thing missing from the device is an expandable storage slot which would have allowed you to increase the size of your content library. 

Sony NWE395 Walkman
Lifewire / Jeffrey Daniel Chadwick

Battery Life: Fast charging, long-lasting

Sony’s website claims the Walkman gets 35 hours of battery life from a full charge. To test this claim, we charged the battery to full and used a male-to-male aux cable to connect to the JBL Charge 4 and let it play continuously until the battery died. We began the test on a Wednesday at noon and the device played until late Thursday evening meaning it actually surpassed Sony’s claims by a bit.

After the battery was dead, we plugged it into an AV wall adapter and timed how long it takes to reach a full charge. This takes about 1 hour, 40 minutes to achieve, so if you’re using the Walkman on a regular basis, there’s no reason it should run out of juice as long as you remember to charge.  

Sound Quality: As good as your headphones can get

Like any MP3 player, the quality of the music will match whatever device you have it connected to. The included earbuds are okay, but don’t produce the depth and range of sound that more sophisticated headphones deliver. We were only able to tolerate the sound quality for about a day or two of testing. Then switched over to an aging pair of Apple EarPods to get a better experience. If you have any other options for earbuds, we recommend you use those.

The included earbuds are okay, but don’t produce the depth and range of sound that more sophisticated headphones deliver.

When we connected the Walkman to the JBL Charge 4, it delivered all the top-notch sound, and the aux connector means that you can hook it up to any device that has that audio-in port. 

We also connected it to car sound system and heard everything the music had to offer, from the booming guitar solos to small details like bells and cymbals. Audio was as clear and rich as CDs and smartphones playing through the same system. 

When we connected the Walkman to the JBL Charge 4, it delivered all the top-notch sound, and the aux connector means that you can hook it up to any device that has that audio-in port.

Price: Do you want a Walkman that badly?

Unfortunately, when you buy the Sony Walkman, you’re paying for the brand name. The 16GB model we tested costs $95, though we saw it on sale for $75. The 8G and 4GB models cost $74.99 and $64.99 respectively. You can get them on sale for less, but we don’t recommend it because of how small the storage is. Generally, we think the price is high considering that some budget MP3 players give you more features for as little as $20.

Mahadi M350 vs. Sony NWE395 Walkman

The Mahadi M350 costs about $70 less than the 16GB Walkman we tested, but surprisingly, it has more features. While it only has 8GB of onboard storage, it has an expandable storage slot that takes microSD cards up to 120GB. With the Walkman, you’re capped at 16GB. Other extras include a sound recorder, an external speaker, and a stopwatch. Downsides to the M350 include its frustrating touch interface and counter-intuitive navigation, but that’s a perfectly fine tradeoff for a product that costs less than $25.

Final Verdict

A solid MP3 player in terms of usability and music playback, but lacking storage. 

If you feel like disconnecting from the world of apps, emails and text and just enjoy your music, the Sony NWE395 Walkman is worthy of consideration. It does its job of music playback well, even if it has a few drawbacks when it comes to storage. You’ll just have to decide if the price-tag is worth the official Walkman branding.

Specs

  • Product Name Sony NWE395 Walkman
  • Product Brand Sony
  • Price $94.99
  • Weight 0.99 oz.
  • Product Dimensions 3.12 x 1.81 x 6.68 in.
  • Color Red, Black,
  • Battery Life 35 hours
  • Wired/Wireless Wired
  • Warranty 1 Year
  • Audio Codecs PCM, AAC, WMA, MP3
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