Sony VAIO Pocket VGF-AP1L 40GB (2004)
This is such a weird design. It was something like $500 at launch, and not a hit. Reviews were mostly negative due to the glitchy SonicStage software that you had to use, and initially the player didn't have native MP3 support... everything had to be converted to ATRAC. Sony you idiot. Sometime later this was corrected via firmware update and I've confirmed my unit plays MP3.
The controller thing is like a trackpad on a laptop, but with a grid of buttons underneath. Glide your thumb around to move the "cursor" (a block) on the screen and click down to select items. Works ok-ish once you get used to it. Not really something you can operate without looking at the screen, so the fancy in-line remote will come in handy for the dedicated play controls.
Got this cheap on eBay due to dead battery. Turns out it uses a standard "18650" type Lithium with a charging circuit board attached. Just like the battery in a Neuros I/II backpack and you can replace it the same way. Cut the charging circuit off the old one, attach to new battery, add some electrical tape, all done. They're like $3 on eBay for Ultrafire brand. Tried on mine, works fine now.
This being an older Sony, you can't just drag and drop music on there. But at least it doesn't need any drivers and works as a MSC/UMS external drive. No problem in Win 7. As for loading music, Sony support site only lists SonicStage but f00k that. Tried Winamp with ml_sony plugin, I've had good luck with that in the past but it was flakey - app crashes, some songs not appearing in the player dB, etc. Then tried Sony's MP3 File Manager v2, this isn't listed as supported but hey it works perfectly. Looks like this is the best bet and you can run it from the player's own drive, the app is light and portable.
Overall.. it's kind of bulky and awkward to use. I'll give this a few days but it's probably going to end up on the shelf.
Just wanted to say 'thank you' for your helpful advice re this quirky little device. I saw one in the window of a CEX store in Exeter (Devon, England) last weekend and decided to risk buying it, assuming one could download suitable software updates from Sony. Fat chance! The Sonic Stage 4.3 update will not load in fact none of the updates would work even though I revived an old XP laptop to do it.
I was going to take the VGF back to the store but then I thought 'one more try' and I found your really helpful posting - as you say, Sony's MP3 File Manager v2 works perfectly (on the XP machine, not Win 7). It's not exactly user friendly but I am now able to transfer the MP3s from my entire CD collection (now sold to save space) and you have enabled me to put this gadget to good use so I'm very grateful, thanks very much!
The only thing is, I don't have the remote control and the track pad thing is really fiddly; will try to get hold of one. As a matter of interest, did you find anything else that worked instead of Sonic Stage?
Amazing what effect you can have on someone's life thousands of miles away eh? This device was a dead duck, Sony no help at all, but you save the day!
Exmouth, Devon, England.
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