The revival of the ancient Walkman name for digital music has been a damp squib so far. Indeed, Sony's approach to digital music has at times seemed rather like Bambi on ice; products look good, but are haphazard at best. Its major problem was a halfway house of design: half-desirable, half-unusable.

Then there was ATRAC, Sony's proprietary music format. The company didn't learn and still hasn't, but it has enabled you to put MP3 and WMA tracks on to the player without maxing out your CPU as it struggles to convert everything to ATRAC.

Still, the proprietary software manages to keep to Sony's recent mediocre standards, with yet another System tray icon prompting us to download firmware updates every other startup.

Thankfully, the NW-A1000 works with Windows without installing the extra software. Another boon is found in the desirability stakes. The box for this player is approaching Apple levels of design-cum-desirability.

Not one, but two problems

Design-wise, it's a joy to hold and very pocketable. However, there are two major problems. The first is the fiddly, plasticky controls. More definition is required. The second is the terrible dot matrix-tastic screen. We don't mind mono.

We do mind not being able to see what's playing, or how long (the admittedly impressive) battery life is going to last. The unit charges either via USB or via a power adaptor that plugs into the USB port. Battery life is impressive and, for the money, it's a worthy alternative. It's also available in a capacity of 20GB for £200. Both price points are pretty competitive.

This is the closest Sony has yet come to making a desirable audio player. Another couple of generations and it could present a real challenge. Given the company's clout, it might yet make it.