Oooh they’re little teasers are Sony. They lured us all the way from Tech Digest towers to Columbia Tristar’s HQ in Golden Square with the promise of a big personal video player announcement. Then in the end it never happened (unfortunately it won’t be launched over here until next summer.) Still we did get our grubby little mitts on a Japanese sample of the HMP-A1 complete with English menus (the product has just launched in Japan for around £500).
It’s actually a pretty decent model. Screen size is only 3.5 inches but picture quality from various MPEG4 sources (Terminator, Bad Boys etc) was excellent. Other good points included two headphone sockets (but no external speakers), a video output for hook-up to a TV and, so were are told, native MP3 playback (though whether that will be the case for the UK model remains to be seen). There’s also a USB input for connecting up a digital camera etc.
Menus are pretty easy to navigate around (icons are provided for pictures, movies and audio) with neat left/right, up/down arrow keys to the right of the screen. Sound quality is also much better than from an iPod with the video display automatically switching off as soon as an MP3 is played to preserve battery power.
Now for the bad news. Storage capacity is way too small (just 20Gb), sound from the video clips was lacklustre and there isn’t any DivX compatible as yet. Still, it’s better than we thought and might do quite well here if there’s enough MPEG4 video content and enough storage capacity to make it worthwhile.