The MZ-N505 is small and compact, barely much bigger than a minidisc itself. If it didn't already look fragile enough to begin with, the fact that the body casing is made from sturdy plastic, rather than a hardier metal shell, does make you extra careful about where you leave it. A wayward foot or posterior could well do some permanent damage to the poor thing! Long-term durability aside, the MZ-N505 has a lot going for it. All your basic minidisc recording/playing/editing functions are here and accessible via the main unit or the remote stick. The main unit's buttons are a bit plasticky too, lending the unit a sort of Tomy-esque feel, but they respond well and accidental proddings of neighbouring buttons rarely happen. (Both the main unit and the remote stick have a "hold" function to lock off the controls too.) As with any MD unit worth its salt these days, there are LP2 and LP4 recording modes, but alas no high/double speed synchro transfer function for ripping CDs optically. However, the unit does make up for this by allowing you to rip and transfer a CD via the OpenMG Jukebox software at 32x speeds, more of which later. Sound playback quality is top notch, assuming you've a decent pair of headphones or earphones. The earphones supplied with the unit are the cheap, generic sort that Sony throw in with all their portable audio gear. They get the job done, but they become uncomfortable to wear after about ten minutes. On top of that, the sound can be a bit thin and tinny and the bass response disappointing, even whilst using one of the unit's two built-in bass boost modes. To get the best out of the MZ-N505, you're better off discarding the bundled earphones and investing in a decent pair of headphones. The Sony MDR-G63LP Street Style headphones are just the ticket and ideal for a portable. Elsewhere on the main unit, you've got a 3V DC power jack for the bundled power supply (an absolute essential if you're going to be doing a lot of recording or transferring from external sources), a headphone/remote jack (headphones and remote stick supplied), dual line-in/optical input (optical cable supplied) and USB port (USB cable supplied). The eject button is logically placed and, thankfully, won't eject the disc if the unit's recording/writing or transferring data via USB. Of course, the MZ-N505's biggest selling point is its versatility as a Net MD player. Sony's OpenMG Jukebox software is supplied on CD, although it's a somewhat unwieldy and archaic application. To list all the associated niggles would require more space than I have available for this review, suffice to say that the software does what it should 70% of the time and will infuriate the hell out of you for the other 30%. Anyone expecting to just drag a whole bunch of MP3s over to the unit in record time is going to be disappointed. The MZ-N505 doesn't natively support the MP3 format -- instead, MP3 files have to be converted into the MD's native ATRAC format. These ATRAC conversions are then recorded onto the disc. Anyone short on hard drive space had better beware, because you essentially end up with the same track on your system in both MP3 and ATRAC format. (Pay careful attention to dialog boxes and configuration screens too, otherwise the software may end up inadvertently deleting your original MP3 files at some point.) The whole MP3->ATRAC conversion process seems to take an age, certainly much longer than a CD->MP3 rip. On the other hand, the ATRAC data is transfered to minidisc at 32x speed, so at least that side of things is fairly nippy. Be careful when transferring MP3s that are of a particularly low bitrate (ie, anything below 96kbps) if you're using one of the LP recording modes. The sound quality isn't so hot (you're effectively ending up with second generation lossy compression). If at all possible, re-record the track directly from your original source via the line-in/optical jack. You're limited to a 1x speed transfer rate, but you're getting a good quality first generation compression. Despite the poor (but adequate) software and a rather naff pair of bundled earphones, the MZ-N505 is a wonderful little unit with a lot going for it. Learn to live with the software's shortcomings (at the very least you can put it to good use for titling your recordings), buy yourself a decent set of headphones and you're all set. The ability to arrange tracks into groups is another major plus, especially if you're planning on filling up all 320 mins capacity of an 80 min disc in LP4 mode. With the mains power plugged in, the unit is also capable of recharging its own battery! Thoroughly recommended as a first-time purchase for MD newbies looking for a portable rather than a deck, as a supplemental portable unit for MD veterans or as a worthy alternative to an MP3 player.