Pros Size, features, drag and drop, sound quality and style
Cons Storage, screen size, no AC adapter
Summary My U3 came in 12/1/05 direct from cowonamerica.com (I suggest you purchase elsewhere for a better price). I bought it on 11/21/05, the day they posted it for fear it would soon be out of stock. Originally I wasn't considering any player other than the nano which I actually bought from Target. Before ever opening it though, I returned the nano after hearing about its scratch-prone finish and I’m glad I did wait for the iAudio.
The iAudio although not as stunning as the nano, has many more features and seems to be much more durable. This player has outstanding sound clarity. I haven't yet used the provided buds but, I picked up a pair of Sony MDR-EX51LP's. I am slightly disappointed with the Sony's high frequency reproduction, and did not hear their so called tinny initial sound but, even after hooking up the U3 to my mini system, the player shines.
This player is small enough to carry everywhere, yet solid enough to not worry every second about its state. Music, pictures and FM radio work great. No software required, with the ability to drop and drag files is a major selling point. I would have considered many other players if they offered this feature.
Video is also great but, strains your eyes. Don't get me wrong, I will probably watch videos, it's just not feasible for extended periods of time on so small a screen. On a flash player storage is always an issue but, 2GB is adequate for a good mix of music and pictures, probably not enough for video though. I don't travel much however, I think including an AC adapter would have made this player an even better deal than it is.
If you’re looking for a small mp3 player with the most features and in a high quality package, buy a U3, let the masses follow the nano.
Pros Great sound quility plus BBE, Mach3Bass and 3D surround! Long battery life! Easy to carry! Great Smooth Video playback! Great features including Real-time Lyrics+ Cool Softwares, All you can ask for!
Cons Retail Package doesn't come with a wall charger!
Summary This is the player of the decade! It uses the latest Telechips' Processing Unit TCC770, which are the top-end media player processors running at 200Mhz tops with great crystal clear outputs. (A low-end would be Sigmatel chips made before 2006)(The apple iPod Nanos uses Portal Player chips which are primarily designed for Hard-drive players instead of Flash players).
The U3's amazing sound quility is then carried out by the Ultra Powerful CIRRUS LOGIC CS42L51 which will bring you a 60mW total sound output that none other players can achieve now!! This will increase the treble and Bass to a never before clarity!
The iAudio U3 media player like any other leading flash players uses SAMSUNG flash storage chips, different capacities (512MB/1GB/2GB) has different a model number so I'm not going to get into that here. The player features a huge 16MB cache alowing the player to play basically anything it can without a pause or sudden "stops".
The iAudio U3 has a powerful digital FM radio which also use a top-end chip, the Philips TEA5767 chip, which not only conserves power but brings cutting edge reception technology with clear stereo sound.
If you ever wonder if this player is a "power sucker", it's NOT! It uses a Philips
PCF50606HN PMU(Power Managment Unit) which clearly proved it's conserving abilities allowing the player to operate a TRUE 16.5 hours tops at full charge with backlit on for 30 mins playing 128kbps 44KHz MP3 . (I know this isn't the 20hours on the ad, but that's different with backlit off and all that. Who would keep the backlit off for 20 hours of playback anyways...?)
Another thing worth mentioning is that this player has a 95db SNR! Isn't that something? I can't prove that like the other facts since I don't have the equipment but I don't think they can lie about this!!
I don't know if this is against COWAN in any way(s) to put all this REAL technical information on a public site, but if it is then just delete it. The only con I found about this player is that it doesn't come with a wall charger. You can buy it for about $10 online.
Have fun with this great media player!!
It gets 97 out of 100 from me.
A iPod Nano gets 82 out of 100 from me.
Pros Amazing sound, fantastic design, awesome screen, and spectacular features
Cons lack of some accessories and price
Summary I love this mp3 player.
Most importantly the sound of the U3 is amazing. I have yet to hear a mp3 player that sounds better (and I have spent a fair amount of time with nano and ipod video). When I use the equalizer and other effects on the U3 they actually enhance the music. On other devices it is hit or miss. The different ways you can tweak your music is unbelievable. With 60mW of power (30mW+30mW) the U3 can really drive headphones and IEMs well. If you have a great set of cans you are in for a treat.
The design of this player is fantastic. While the Nano is technically smaller by volume the U3 feels smaller and fits much better in pockets than the Nano. The fact that the Nano is longer and wider contribute to it feeling bigger. The U3 also weighs significantly less than Nano. The U3 weighs 1.11 oz while the Nano weighs 1.5 oz. While this does not sound like much it is noticable in pocket. The layout of the buttons and joystick are perfect. While it takes a while to learn the interface on the U3 once you do, it is very easy to navigate.
The screen is awesome. The colors are vibrant and the text is crisp and clear. I also love the fact that you can change the GUI theme skin. The screen has all the pertinent information you need while playing songs. While the screen is too small for my taste, relating to pictures and video, it is still a nice feature to have. I would rather have the smaller device (and thus smaller screen). I did not buy the device for the picture and video viewing.
The features of this device are spectacular. MP3, WAV, WMA, OGG, FLAC, XviD, song lyrics, text files, FM radio, line in recording, voice recording, record FM radio, the list goes on and on. I'm not aware of any other flash based device that has all these features. While this did not impact me, there is no DRM support but it is coming.
The U3 is very durable. There is no question that the U3 is leaps and bounds more durable than the Nano. It is very difficult to scratch. You can wipe it with your shirt without worrying that you are going to damage it. The U3 also feels very solidly built.
The battery time is very good, I get a lot of play time on the U3. I average 16 - 19 hours of play time on one charge. For the size of this device and the color screen I think that is very good.
The fact that the U3 is also a UMS device that shows up as as a drive when plugged into a PC or Mac is a huge plus. No software is needed to download mp3s, pictures, or video. When I was on vacation I just plugged into the Mac and dragged files over to U3. It is that easy. Being dependent on software to download tunes to your mp3 player is a drag.
Download speeds to the U3 via USB2 are astounding. Cowon rates it at 35Mbps and it is very close to this. I have no idea what the Nano is rated but I can tell you that the U3 is at least twice as fast. It is such a pleasure to be able to move stuff over this fast. For me this is a huge plus.
Dynamic playlist is also a very nice feature to have. It is great to be able to create a playlist of what you want to listen to on the go.
Firmware updates happen on a very regular basis with Cowon. They are constantly improving their devices. I have had the U3 for a month and there has all ready been updates to enhance the device. This is not the case with all mp3 player companies.
The U3 experience is not with out faults. The fact that Cowon did not include a neck strap, armband, or carrying case is a major bummer. For the amount of money this cost in my mind this is inexcusable. The U3 is also pricey but I imagine that the non Sandisk, Apple, Samsung, etc. companies like Cowon are paying a lot more money for flash memory. I would still take the 2gb U3 over the 4gb Nano any day of the week. The start up also takes a little bit longer than I would like.
Relating to cnet's review. I do not understand how they can only give the U3 a 6.7. They gave the U2 a 8 (editor's choice) and the U3 is very similar to U2 with a bunch of upgrades. They gave U2 a 9 in design and the U3 a 6. Why ? Cowon clearly improved the design. How can Cnet only rate the features a 7? What other mp3 player has this feature set? Performance a 7? I know of no flash base player that performs better.
Bottom line: you will love this MP3 player.
"fantastic device"on by dstarobin
Pros nearly everything
Cons no ac adapter, no lanyard, interface not sealed
Summary In my opinion, this is such a well-conceived product that it merits a detailed review.
Two months ago I had thought I had finalized my decision to purchase a Nano until bloggers, the local news, and newsgroups had made clear the point that the surface of Appleâ€™s device scratches easily and that the display had some fragility issues. Although I do think the Nano is quite a good productâ€”and that many people love itâ€”it is one that I would feel uneasy about handling in my daily activities. Iâ€™m very active; I spend a lot of time at the gym, on the subway and on the street, and my music player comes everywhere with me. Iâ€™m constantly moving it from pocket to pocket, sweating on it, putting it down, dropping it, etc. After using my girlfriendâ€™s Nano, I felt that it was not capable of taking that kind of abuse. Itâ€™s a nice device, but just not the right one for me. I knew that if I held out long enough, a product better suited for me would surface. It did.
I purchased my 2GB U3 from newegg.com for $245 + $5 UPS. Although this may seem somewhat of a hefty price tag, itâ€™s completely worth the cost. Some consumers might have a problem with its limited capacity, but it should be remembered that this is a flash-based player. 2GB of storage is quite good for any flash based player. IMO, what really distinguishes this device from the Nano is that your PC recognizes it as a USB mass storage device upon connection. You can simply drag and drop files into it from within file explorer. These can be any type of filesâ€”documents, music, photos, videosâ€¦ anything really. Since itâ€™s basically a juiced-up mass storage device, the U3â€™s internal file structure can be set up quickly and easily, and in any fashion the user desires. The player comes with two programs: Jet Audio and Jet Shell. Jet Audio is a music and video player, not unlike RealPlayer or Windows Media Player. It also lets you rip CDs to FLAC, OGG and WMA formats (among others). However, there is no option to rip to mp3. This isnâ€™t such a big deal since WMA and mp3 are comparable. The program also lets you burn CDs and convert videos (such as WMVs) to a format optimized for the U3. Although I donâ€™t expect to be doing much image viewing on my U3, photos can be displayed on the bright (but tinyâ€”2.5cm x 2cm ) color screen, and look very sharp. Videos (MPEGS and WMVs) can also be viewed at 15fps, which produces a very clear image. The JetShell application provides a more structured file upload and download interface than the Windows file explorerâ€¦ but its basic function is the same.
Photos and videos are nice add-ons, but I purchased the U3 for the combination of its ruggedness and its music playing capabilities. I am not at all disappointed. This thing is really amazing. The included earbuds (made by Cresyn, I think) are decent for a bundled set, but are worth replacing by a better set. Shure and Etymotic make great (but expensive) buds, but the Sony makes the decent MDR-EX51 and 51LP set. Anyway, this player is unique in that it pumps out 30 milliwatts per channel through 8ohm phones, for a total of 60, which is difficult to find in the consumer mp3 player market. Most players pump out a max of 13mW/channel. This contributes to the U3â€™s excellent sound reproduction.
I spent 5 years of my life as a professional full-time club DJ here in NYC. Iâ€™m not an audio pro, but the extent of detailed listening necessary has conditioned my ear (to some degree) to know what sounds good, or to know how a â€˜sound should soundâ€™. IMO, the sound generated by this unit is excellent. I just retired a 5GB Zen Micro, and it sounded nothing like the U3. Iâ€™ve never been much of a fan of electronic audio enhancement features found on many players (like EQ settings, bass boost, or surround sound) because they generally veil the music with another layer of artificiality. For fun, after charging and importing some music into my U3 I tested some of its built-in audio processing features. The â€œBBEâ€� feature uses BBEâ€™s proprietary algorithms to restructure the sound to allow many more details to be heard. There is a marked difference in clarity between sound processed with BBE and without. This feature is now always enabled on my U3. The Mach3Bass (also running BBE algorithms) is excellent as well (but be aware that all audio enhancing features drain battery life more rapidly). â€œMP Enhanceâ€� compensates for missing sounds within the music fileâ€”Iâ€™m unsure of how it accomplishes this, but the sound is better with it enabled. â€œSurround Soundâ€� and â€œpanâ€�, however, are fairly worthless IMO.
Music playback features include the standard single song/ all song repeat options, as well as shuffle and shuffle repeat. The U3 also allows you to set play â€œboundariesâ€�, meaning that you can specify that an entire folder or just a single subdirectory is played. The device also allows you set bookmarks in as many music files as you wish and then skip quickly to them at will. This is handy if you have songs with long intros. Another playback feature is the â€œA-B repeatâ€�, which allows a segment of an audio file to be repeated infinitely, which may be helpful if youâ€™re studying a language or a musical phrase.
You can also customize literally every parameter of the U3â€™s operation, such as track skip interval (1/2 track, whole track, etc), and scan speed (1sec, 2 sec, 10 sec etc.). The display color can be changed to 1 of 8 available, and wallpaper is user customizable, as is the startup logo. The dedicated â€œrecordâ€� and â€œplay/pauseâ€� buttons can be programmed to serve as double duty hotkeys to link to features or menu items you most frequently access. Song fade in/out can be set and its duration can be specified as well. A particularly excellent feature is the â€œDPLâ€� option. This function allows the user to create an on-the-fly playlist, which many other players do not. You can also delete songs directly from the device. The U3 features a sleep timer that can be set in 10-minute increments up to an hour, as well as a wakeup alarm, (although this means youâ€™ll have to sleep with buds in your ears).
The U3â€™s FM radio picked up all major stations, but not always with the highest fidelity indoors. I was able to position it to receive a clear signal, but it took some extraneous movements. Outside, the receiver works very well. You also have the option of setting 20 presets.
The onboard voice recorder works VERY wellâ€¦ I was amazed at how well it worked. It clearly picked up my voice from 20 feet away in a quiet room. Whatâ€™s really nice is that the gain can be adjusted for optimal recording. This goes for it FM radio recording ability as well. The direct line-in recording feature is also a fantastic one, enabling the recording of any sound played through a source with a line-level output. You can record old records, tapes, cds, tv, radio, shortwaveâ€”literally anything played through a device with a headphone jack. The quality of the recording is as good as the quality of the source audio. For ALL recording you can specify the bitrate at which youâ€™d like to recordâ€”very nice. But it should be noted that the U3 will only record in WMA format. You can then upload the recording to your PC and convert the file format from there if youâ€™d like.
The U3â€™s user interface is excellent as well. Although small, the screen is easy to read, and does well as possible in direct sunlight. The 5-way face-mounted thumbstick is easy to use, and feels very sturdy. I actually prefer this over the iPodâ€™s clickwheel because you can easily navigate the U3 with a gloved hand. The USB port is protected by a rugged plastic cover attached by 2 small and durable plastic strap hinges, so I donâ€™t think it can accidentally detach. The black finish is quite fingerprint repellantâ€”Iâ€™ve been using my U3 for several days and there is not a single print on it. The right side record/menu/play-pause buttons are easy to find in a pocket, and the hold switch is sturdy and locks with a satisfying click. Unlike battery indicators on most electronic devices, the indicator on the U3 does not use bars as increments. Instead, it appears to drain like a glass emptyingâ€¦ I think it helps gauge battery life more accurately. And speaking of battery life, I got nearly 16 hours out of a single charge with normal use.
Here are my gripes with the U3:
1. Although very easy to use, the thumbstick interface is not sealed, meaning that dust or other potentially harmful debris can possibly enter the unitâ€™s internals. Also, there is a groove around the area in which the polycarbonate face is set that tends to collect dust.
2. There is no neckstrap or lanyard included with the U3 (or case, if you like that sort of thing). There is fitting for a lanyard at the top of the device, but Cowon does not include the lanyard. I went to J&R to pick up a pack of 3 for $5.
3. When navigating through music files, the files do not appear as ID3 tags, but rather as a file name. This can be problematic if you have ambiguously named filesâ€”Iâ€™m having this problem now, so I must rename all the files.
4. The U3 does not come with an AC adapter. Sometimes you may not have access to a PC to charge the unit via USB.
5. The U3 does not indicate when it is fully charged when charging via a USB connection.
But overall, IMO this is a simply amazing device. I would enthusiastically recommend it to anyone who is interested in purchasing a flash-based player.
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Pros Stellar sound quality, excellent recording quality, smooth video playback, ease-of-use
Cons High price, weak FM reception and functions, few accessories included
Summary I got my U3 yesterday, and it hasn't ceased to wow me with the impressive sound quality. iAudio's fine reputation as a manufacturer of excellent MP3 players is indeed well-deserved. The video playback is smooth, even though I initially expected poor performance because of the 15fps limit. At work, I needed to do some line-in recordings, and I have used it, with excellent results. Besides, it is easy to use, and my friend had a go at it. I can charge it easily without an adaptor, and the best part is I can drag and drop files onto it, saving me time and hassle.
However, there are still drawbacks, albeit minor. The FM reception, though I have not tested it since it is of minimal use to me, is not known to be good, as CNET has pointed out. The lack of a case and pendant is annoying, because I have to get my own.
Overall, the few drawbacks U3 has do not diminish its capabilities as an MP3 player. Great sound, good video, and easy to use, it has fulfilled all the basic requirements for a good flash player, and COWON has packed many goodies into such a tiny package. Considering it's use to me both personally and professionally, it is already more than a toy, and is good show-off material to boot.
Incidentally, CNET gave a relatively poor rating to the U3, especially when compared to the feature-poor Nano. I feel many of the points are unjustified. This is the list of bad points given by CNET:
The pricey Cowon iAudio U3's video playback is limited to 15 frames per second. The interface is difficult to navigate. It has a cheap plastic shell and mediocre FM reception but no carrying case, armband, pendant, AC adapter, or auto-preset option for FM stations. It requires two different desktop utilities. The screen is too tiny for photos and video.
Let us go through one by one:
15fps video playback -- minimal effect on the playback of actual videos. I have watched a video on the U3 at 13fps and it works perfectly fine. The screen is so small and sharp the end result is acceptable, if not pleasing. But if the complaint is the video size, get a PMP instead.
Difficult to navigate interface -- subjective. My friend, a non-MP3 user, is able to use it without much difficulty. There are only three main buttons. If it is not one it has to be one of the others. Nothing complex there. At most, it just needs a bit of getting used to, but what machine doesn't require that of the user?
Cheap plastic shell -- it feels sturdy enough, and it is not as if it is meant to be regularly exposed to rough treatment. The alternative is to have some other material like metal but this will likely make it heavier. I'll take a lighter player anytime.
Mediocre FM reception -- I don't use FM, but from the feedback by some others I've read, this is fair enough
No carrying case, armband, pendant, AC adaptor -- Having no carrying case and pendant is annoying, but not the rest. Doesn't Apple charge the consumer for accessories like these? The player can be charged easily through a USB connection.
No auto-preset option for FM stations -- this is a major convenience only for those to whom FM reception matters.
Having to use two different utilities -- I don't use the file manager, Jetshell, because it is strictly speaking unnecessary. The player is detected on insertion into the USB port and I can simply copy files into the player directly. The other is a fine player that has been given an excellent rating at download.com. Nothing wrong with using that
Screen too tiny for photos and video -- Moot point. This is at heart an MP3 player that happens to have photo and video viewing capabilities. They are very good, though it is true that the video is small. If the complaint is the screen's small size, then get one with a big screen. If one is using the U3 mainly as an MP3 player or FM receiver, this is moot. And if one is using it mainly as a video player, one got the wrong item and should be dumping this for a PVP instead. Either way, the complaint is just splitting hairs.
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- Digital Storage / Capacity 2.0 GB
- Diagonal screen size 1.2 in
- Mfr estimated battery life 20.0 hour(s)
- Weight 1.1 oz
- Battery Player battery - Rechargeable - Lithium polymer
- Digital player supported digital audio standards WAV WMA MPEG 2.5 Audio MPEG 1 Audio MPEG 2 Audio Ogg Vorbis ASF
- Flash memory installed 2.0 GB
- Device type Digital player / radio