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Apple iPod vs Sony Walkman

By Tom Morgan

If you want a new MP3 player, should you pick an Apple iPod or Sony Walkman? We compare the brands to reveal the top-scoring MP3 players.

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Although MP3 players aren't as popular as they once were, they still serve a purpose if you're looking for an affordable product to store your music on. 

They all fit into your pocket, and certain models can be clipped onto your clothing too, making them ideal for gym fanatics and commuters alike.

We've had a range of Apple iPod and Sony Walkman MP3 players in our lab, and our rigorous testing helps us separate the prime players from the disappointing duds. Read on to see what sets Apple and Sony apart, plus tips on picking the perfect MP3 player for you. 

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you're not yet a member, you can get instant access by taking a £1 trial to Which?.

Apple vs Sony

Apple iPod Nano (7th generation) 16GB
Today's best price £139.00
Which? score 75%
Reviewed Nov 2012
Best Buy
Sound quality, with supplied headphones:
4 out of 5
Performance:
4 out of 5
Ease of use:
4 out of 5
Memory (GB):
Member exclusive
Display size (cm):
Member exclusive
Battery life (hrs:mins):
Member exclusive

Best Apple MP3 player: This device is our highest-scoring MP3 player. It's delightfully easy to use, and you can store thousands of songs on it. Our audio experts were impressed with the sound quality, and battery life is brilliant, too. Log in to see which MP3 player we're talking about.

Sony NW-A25HN
Today's best price £238.00
Which? score 72%
Reviewed Feb 2016
Best Buy
Sound quality, with supplied headphones:
4 out of 5
Performance:
4 out of 5
Ease of use:
4 out of 5
Memory (GB):
Member exclusive
Display size (cm):
Member exclusive
Battery life (hrs:mins):
Member exclusive

Best Sony Walkman MP3 player: This MP3 player is a clear Best Buy. It supports hi-res audio for crystal-clear sound and it won't break the bank either. To top things off, transferring songs from a PC to this gadget is a breeze. Log in to see which MP3 player we're talking about.

Sony NWZ-E585
Today's best price £199.99
Which? score 69%
Reviewed Feb 2016
Sound quality, with supplied headphones:
4 out of 5
Performance:
5 out of 5
Ease of use:
4 out of 5
Memory (GB):
Member exclusive
Display size (cm):
Member exclusive
Battery life (hrs:mins):
Member exclusive

Best MP3 player for battery life: No MP3 player we've tested can beat this device when it comes to battery life. In fact, we squeezed almost 70 hours of playback from it - almost double that of one of its main competitors. Log in to see which MP3 player we're talking about.

The Apple iPod range

It doesn't look like Apple has plans to develop any more MP3 players, but you can still buy the iPod Touch, iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle on the company's website. Our audio experts have tested all of them in our lab.

iPod Touch

The most expensive Apple MP3 player is the iPod Touch, which you can get with either 16GB, 32GB, 64GB or 128GB of storage. It has a 4-inch display, an 8Mp camera and access to the Apple app store. It also features Bluetooth connectivity, which means you can pair the device with a set of wireless headphones. A top-of-the-range iPod Touch will cost you around £379 - even more than many well-known smartphones.

  • Pros: A vibrant touchscreen display, built-in camera, Bluetooth connectivity
  • Cons: The cheapest model costs £179
  • Buy if: you're looking for a feature-packed MP3 player and don't mind paying over £150.

iPod Nano

The iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle are more portable than the Touch. The iPod Nano features a 2.5-inch touchscreen display and comes with 16GB of storage - enough for thousands of songs. It weighs in at around 31g, which means it will easily tuck into your pocket. The iPod Nano will set you back around £150.

  • Pros: Easy to use, can play videos, touchscreen display
  • Cons: No expandable storage, may be too small for some
  • Buy if: you want a portable Apple MP3 player with a display.

iPod Shuffle

The iPod Shuffle, the smallest of Apple's MP3 players, doesn't have a screen (so you can't manually select tracks), but it's so small it can clip onto your clothing. The front of the device simply consists of a click wheel, which lets you quickly skip tracks and adjust volume without having to look down at the gadget itself. It only comes with 2GB of internal storage, though, so music fans with big libraries might want to look for an alternative MP3 player. The Apple iPod Shuffle costs around £50, so it's worth considering if you don't want to spend big.

  • Pros: Affordable, small and lightweight, can be clipped to clothing
  • Cons: No display, takes a while to get used to, 2GB of storage
  • Buy if: you're looking for a small and lightweight MP3 player to take running.

For more on Apple's iPod range, head over to our guide to how to buy the best Apple iPod. There, you'll find more tips on deciding which model to buy.

If you're having trouble with your existing iPod, our iPod problems solved page can help.

The Sony Walkman range

Sony's Walkman line-up serves as an alternative to the iPod range. Walkmans are better suited to audiophiles, as they're compatible with high-resolution audio. That means you'll get a much more detailed sound from certain Walkmans than from an iPod Touch, iPod Nano or iPod Shuffle.

  • Pros: High-resolution audio, expandable storage, several waterproof models
  • Cons: No built-in app store, our tests show that some are let down by poor battery life
  • Buy if: you want to listen to high-resolution music.

At the time of writing, the cheapest Sony Walkman we've tested, the Sony NWZ-E585, costs around £90. If you're working with a bigger budget, you might instead be looking at the Sony NWZ-A15 (£150) or Sony NW-A25HN (£240). Ultimately, a top-of-the-range iPod will likely cost you more than a premium Walkman.

Many Sony MP3 players also offer expandable memory - a feature no iPod has included. If you buy a Sony Walkman and fill it up with songs more quickly than expected, you can add to the storage simply by inserting a micro-SD card. This can transform a regular 16GB Walkman into a 128GB device that you can pack with hundreds of your favourite albums.

Some of Sony's MP3 players consist of a music player built into a set of headphones. We've tested several models like this, including the Sony NWZ-W273S and Sony SSE-BTR1. For more on Sony Walkmans, see our collection of Sony Walkman reviews.

For more on our testing, see our how we test MP3 players page.

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