At 2.5 by 1.8 by 0.7 inches and a lightweight 1.3 ounces with battery, the Cowon iAudio G2 is a bit large for a flash player, but the rectangular, dark-blue case and blue-backlit screen is hardly ugly. To the right of the four-line display is a navigational joystick that controls fast-forward/rewind and volume, as well as lets you view the main menu and the tracks directory. The top of the device houses buttons for power/play/pause, mode, and recording; the mode button, new to Cowon players, is a welcome addition. It's difficult to say how well the all-plastic design will hold up to long-term use, but we liked the firm snap of the protective flip cover for the line-in and USB ports, and we found all the buttons responsive and easy to control.
The Cowon iAudio G2 plays MP3, OGG, and protected WMA files, so you can play tracks purchased from online music stores such as Napster, though not subscription-based tracks. You can install the included JetShell software to transfer your media files, but the player is also compatible with Windows Media Player, Musicmatch Jukebox, and Yahoo Music Engine; or you can simply move unprotected tracks using Windows Explorer.
What we love most about the Cowon iAudio G2 is its crisp, clean audio quality with well-defined highs and lows; the included earbuds are better than what typically comes with MP3 players. Even better, the iAudio G2 has a wealth of audio adjustments, including six EQ presets and a five-band user-defined mode, as well as BBE, Mach3Bass, MP Enhance, 3D Surround, and Pan effects. Plus, it supports line-in and voice recording, and it captures to the MP3 format. Recorded sound quality is, again, excellent.
We can forgive Cowon for excluding the FM tuner, but downgrading to a USB 1.1 connection was an odd choice for a 1GB player. As a result, file-transfer speeds averaged only 0.7MB per second, a very slow rate in the day and age of USB 2.0. The company claims as much as 40 hours of continuous playback from a single AA battery for the iAudio G2--an impressive figure, though less than the G3's rated life of 50 hours (37 hours according to CNET Labs). CNET Labs was able to muster only 17 hours per battery, way below the company's rating, so beware.