Sony's answer to the iPod – the NW-HD1, or Network Walkman – may boast longer battery life, but it will struggle to match the iPods features and niconic status, reports claim.

"Catching up is one thing; catching up to Apple guru Steve Jobs is another," writes NewsDay's Steve Williams.

Williams says the iPod's innovative click-wheel - that allows one thumbed browsing - leaves the Walkman standing. He says: "Nothing about the Sony machine's physical controls is particularly intuitive. The HD1's navigation wheel is used to scroll the various menus. This comes up when the Mode button is pressed; a separate Menu button sends you to the Play Mode. Got that?" And, as for the meun screen: "The readout screen on the HD1 lacks contrast, and the readouts are small."

Along with longer battery life, Sony boasts that its device can store more songs in the same amount of space. But, Williams notes: "Sony claims 13,000 songs can be stored on the NW-HD1, and they can - and they are so compressed that they sound lousy."

A major criticism of Sony's device is its restrictive format. Sony, like Apple has opted for a closed system. Users need to convert tracks to Sony's own format in order to play them on the new Walkman.

Williams explains: "The new Walkman will not play MP3s, WMAs, or WAVs; its software, SoniceStage 2, must convert all files to ATRAC before they'll work with the HD1. This can be a gruelling process. On occasion, the process is interrupted for no apparent reason. Compared with the ease of shuttling songs from a Mac's iTunes program to an iPod, ATRAC3 is medieval."

The one area where Apple often falls down is price. However, in this case it is different: "Apple has cut the price of its 20GB iPod - the same capacity as the Network Walkman which costs $399 - to $299."