Sony's MZ-NH600 is a digital player that brings a lot to the table -- removable, rewritable 1GB disc capacity, great sound and versatility -- but it lacks that all-important 'cool' factor.
The MZ-NH600 lacks the sex appeal of some (well, most) other players on the market, but for the purely practically-minded the square MZ-NH600 is compact and fits easily into the palm of your hand. The 5-way control key and jog dial are quite tiny and take some getting used to, but the unit does not feel fragile and should hold up for the long haul.
This entry level model does not have a backlit LCD, and the display window only has space for one word of the song title as you run tracks through the jog dial, so if you're not familiar with what's on the disc, you will have to stop on individual tracks to see the full song title scroll by.
Sony's MiniDisc (MD) technology has been on around its Walkman products for a long time, but with this new 1GB Hi-MD format, capacity concerns are a thing of the past. You should be able to store up to 45 CDs onto one 1GB disc. The good news is that the MZ-NH600 can still playback any of the old 177MB discs you might already have, so there are no issues with transferring music or data from obsolescent media. Also, the capacity of your existing MD discs can be doubled to 350 MB using the Hi-MD format.
Of course to reach that 45 CD storage capacity, you'll have to use Sony's ATRAC3plus 48kbps compression technology. But there are several other options, and this is where the MZ-NH600 makes up in sound quality what it lacks in style. You can opt to use its Linear PCM mode that lets you record and playback uncompressed music for superb CD audio quality -- at the cost of storage space, of course.
The MZ-NH600 connects to a PC via a USB cable and uses the supplied SonicStage Version 2.0 software for high speed music transfers -- at 48kbps, you can load about 20 tracks per minute. The recorder also act as an external drive, so you can also store data files such as digital pictures and videos and all types of text files.
The battery can pump out 20 hours of continuous playback without recharge, which is a good thing, since this model does not come with a power adapter. At least the batteries are easy to change, and while transferring files, the USB feeds power to the unit, so battery life is not impacted.
If you think removable media is the way to go, then the MZ-NH600 is a good basic player and would be especially attractive if you already have a collection of MiniDiscs. However, if you want extras like a docking station/charger, LCD remote, radio, or line-in and mic-in capabilities, you'll need to step up to one of Sony's four higher-featured Hi-MD players that list from AU$499 to AU$799.