Pros huge beautiful screen, speakers are great for watching videos with others, screen shots and text viewer, acts as an external hard drive, interface is like a computer, great battery life
Cons heavier than i expected, horrible joystick control, does NOT play as many video formats as it sounds, very slow response time, freezes and needs to be rebooted
Summary i made this account on cnet PURELY so that i could write this review, because of my experiences with this product. im pretty confident that i've done more research on this product than almost all the other reviewers here. that was all i did for 2 weeks straight, i wanted to be positive that this was the right pmp before i spent $330 (i bought the 30gb version) on it. i just received it a week or so ago, and here's what i think...
by just reading the reviews on this product, it sounds too good to be true. it has an arsenal of abilities that obviously make it a wonderful pmp. it has a huge beautiful screen (ranked better than the psp's), exterior speakers (great for multiple viewers watching a video), acts as an external hard drive so you can grab stuff from a friend's comp, can multitask (pictures while listening to music, text while listening to music or watching a video), great recording capabilities (AV out for video, AV out and mic and radio for audio), has a clock and alarm (the alarm can be used to time your recordings), great battery life, can even take screen shots during videos and save them as pictures, can hook up to other devices on the go such as cameras and other mp3 players, displays subtitles for videos (crazy!), comes with a nice case that props the player up for no handed viewing, great PC-like interface is easy to use and get around, can make playlists on the go, has a customizable wallpaper, and a few other features. it sounds GREAT. honestly it really does.
but when i got the device, it was not what i had in mind. i think when it comes to mp3 players, there are two very important facts that you'd need to consider: first, dont just buy an mp3 player with capabilities that you wont find use for! it all depends on what you want out of the device, and you could be wasting money spent on features that you will never use. second, endless research does NOT ensure that you will like the product.
here are the obvious flaws that i saw:
the joystick is HARD to use. i could not get used to it. after a few days of playing around with the a2, i was still accidently pushing the joystick up and down when i was trying to push it in. the design could easily be improved, but it seems iaudio is pretty set on keeping their trademark joystick. the worst part is, when operating this, youll be pushing the joystick in more than anything else, because that is how you select items. and i constantly found the joystick moving in other directions instead of going in.
there is a delay for many actions involving files, especially videos. for pictures, shuffling from picture to picture needs a loading time between each one. its about a second, which you might think is pretty neglible. i personally go annoyed by it. for videos, it is DRASTICALLY worse. i dont mean the loading time for the video, which i thought was relatively fast. but while the video is playing, alot of the times if i want to fast foward or change the volume, the device wont respond at all until several seconds later. at first i didnt know that i had to wait, so i kept pressing the button because i thought it wasnt registering, and the player froze. rewinding is even worse. usually the player just pauses for a few seconds and ignores the rewind request. i cant stand these problems, theyre impossible to bare. especially since this player focuses so much on video play, and yet its video play is so flawed in this sense.
the reviews give the impression that this player can play tons of different video files, which might make you think that you wont have to use the file converter. it says it can play avi, xvid/divx, wmv, and mpeg-4. when i got it i dragged on a couple files to test that. half of the wmv files had problems in playback, usually in fast fowarding and rewinding, which usually did not respond or caused the player to freeze. a few files played very jaggedly. for a few files, the cowon said "index for movie is broken." for a couple mpeg-4 files, they did not even show up in the player's movie folder. what i found out in the user's guide that they DONT TELL YOU IN THE REVIEWS is that there are limitations for the wmv and mpeg-4 files. the a2 does not support wmv9 files with above 352 x 288 resolution (which was seriously all of my wmv files). why didnt anyone mention that before?!? also, the user's guide says "videos created with MPEG4 QPEL or GMC options cannot be played in this player." why didnt anyone mention that either?? the cowon played avi, mpeg1, divx and xvid files just fine. but still, what the hell?? i still have to convert half of the video files that i want to put on this.
also i dont know if my player is broken or not, but i have to reboot my player alot. almost every time i use it, it ends up freezing. you kinda have to get a feel for when you can press certain buttons, and when pressing certain buttons at certain times will cause the player to freeze. it's kind of like using a slow computer with spyware. if you click too many things and open up a bunch of programs, the computer will just take a long long long time to do all the actions, and might just freeze and need a reboot. the same with the cowon (atleast mine). if i open up a file and within the first few seconds try to fast foward, change the volume, or go back, etc, it usually just freezes, and often needs a reboot. its happened to me before in music too. maybe i got a broken cowon, i dont know, but im not going to send mine in and go through all the trouble just to find out that theyre all like this.
those are the obvious faults that im sure everyone can relate to. here are faults that i found did not work with MY needs, which i learned more about once i started playing around with this device. so you may be able to relate, and you may not.
im a student in college. i do alot of walking, and some bus riding here and there. i thought that id be able to use the cowon in my daily life, but it proved to be a bit difficult. first off, its difficult to operate this while walking. the cowon is definitely a two-handed device, like the psp for example. i thought id be able to manage, but imagine walking around with both hands on a psp all day, when all you want to do is listen to music. its pretty uncomfortable, personally. also i didnt find enough bus time to be able to watch much videos, and that was pretty much my only opportunity each day (other than in class, which was kinda fun, but i might as well stay at home if im gonna do that haha). also, the cowon MAY be considered "very pocketable" if it didnt have that joystick sticking out of it, but that joystick does not make it pocketable at all. if im listening to music while walking and try to slip it into my pocket, the joystick gets tapped by the inside of my pocket, either changing the track or pausing the song. i tried several times to put it in my pocket without that happening and finally gave up and just held on to it. also, its pretty much impossible to operate this without looking at it, obviously, since the A, B and C buttons change functions based on what is displayed on the bottom of the screen. i thought that i would find good use for the text viewer, since some of my teachers put their notes up online. however, their notes are all in pda and word doc format, and the cowon only displays TXT format.
and finally, just a few minor rants: the earphones act as an antenna for the radio. this means that you cannot listen to the radio through the exterior speakers, for multiple listeners. also, i tried selecting a picture for the wallpaper, and it denied me saying that the picture i chose did not have the right dimensions. if the player can already display that picture in the photo viewer, why cant it make it the wallpaper? thats not that big of a deal though, i just didnt see it coming.
anyways, just in general, i thought id be able to make time for the cowon's abilities, and i was very wrong. i can see how someone doing alot of business travel might do a better job of using this, since theyd be sitting in planes and trains all day and might want to watch some videos and movies. but then, wouldnt you just watch it on your laptop?? maybe im wrong. either way, i definitely did not need alot of this player's functions, and $330 for a player i wasnt using the most out of is pretty damn expensive. and even if i were using all the features (which are very impressive, by the way), the player had fundamental flaws such as freezing, slow response, stupid joystick, etc that made it impossible to use comfortably.
and you gotta understand, i wanted this thing SO BAD. geez, i had DREAMS about this player when i was waiting for it to ship. id just look at pictures of it when i was bored. i had compared dozens of players for hours on end, for probably 2 months straight, looking for the best one. when i finally got it, it broke my heart. im actually returning it in a few days hopefully, or putting it on ebay. haha you might end up buying mine ironically, if you think that im just making this stuff up and still want one. hopefully you understand this player a little better than you did before you started reading, and also thank you for reading and actually getting this far haha. i just really needed to get all of this off my chest, i hope you understand. i feel much better now, thanks =)
Pros huge screen, sound quality is great for movies and music when you wear earphones, quick music and movie transfer
Cons from my knowledge there is only one playlist that you can have and that's the "on the go playlist", a little bulky
Summary i just received my cowon a2 and to tell you the truth I am really satisfied, now I've gone through a few Cowons and this is by far the best. Mine has a dead pixel but it doesn't really bother me. This may be bias since I am such a cowon fan but I believe that this is definitely a great movie and music player. I use this primarily for music and the system is mainly a movie player but the sound is cd quality. I have three movies on it and it's really useful when you are bored and don't want to listen to music
Pros -Great video/audio play quality, Long Battery life, Best video codec support out there.
Cons -USB host is slow, incompatible with many devices, and one-way. Video recording quality is adequate, but not great.
Summary Overall, I'm pretty impressed with my new Cowon A2. The A2 has a lot of really cool features, and if they were implemented a little better, this thing would be amazing. I'll list out the features I've tried, and my impressions.
Audio quality: I'm not an expert on audio, but I'm happy with the quality level. Headphones are the way to go with this guy, or else put it into an amp. The built in speakers aren't that great. You need the volume up twice as high to hear it without headphones. I've used my TV's "audio in" jack to turn my TV into a stereo. This works good too.
Video quality: I tried this guy with a very good HDTV ripped video file (Band of Brothers). It looks and sounds great on the small screen. Also looks good when I hook it into a TV using the A/V out jack. Not HDTV quality, but good enough for my cheapo TV.
USB hosting: Leaves much to be desired.
1) Compatibility issues. My Canon S1 camera and pretty much every other Canon aren't supported. I have a link below to a site which is compiling a list of what works and what doesn't.
2) One way transfer only. Can't move files from the A2 to the connected device.
3) Very slow. It took me about 35 minutes to transfer a 650MB directory from my Iaudio G3 to the A2.
This takes away the "killer app" of this device in my opinion. I was hoping to use this on trips instead of lugging a laptop around just to store pictures from my camera. Also, the one-way hosting prevents me from making this guy the "mother ship" mp3 player with my G3 (which has only 1 gig of memory). I really hope they will try to fix these shortcomings in future firmware upgrades, but this isn't there yet (FW rev 1.51C). I'm not even sure that any of these fixes can be done in firmware. I may try buying a compatible CF card reader as a work around for my camera issue.
Video Codec Support: Supports most of the common video stuff. I have many video files on my PC from various sources (all legal you can be sure of that), and almost all of my good quality stuff works with this player. One big exception is "motion jpeg" which is coincidentally the format that my Canon S1 camera churns out (quite a common format for digital cameras). I tried using the jetaudio software that comes with the A2 to convert the files, but I couldn't figure out how to do it without severely reducing the video quality. It seems like they expect you to only view it on the small A2 screen instead of using the video out jack. This wasn't a big deal for me, because I just ran a batch job on them with VirtualDub. They look great on the small screen in XVID format. However, for folks who don't know much about processing their video files with a PC, this might be a problem. This is another item I'd add to my firmware wish list "motion jpeg support".
Video recording: Tried recording a couple programs off the TV with this guy at the same time as I was watching them on the TV. I played them back through the A/V out jack onto the same TV. The audio is good even at lower quality levels, but the video is noticably choppy even at the best quality level. This is OK for watching on my TV, or watching on the small screen, but I was hoping for better. This guy will do the job when you're on vacation and you just CAN'T miss that favorite show of yours, but you wouldn't want to use it to create a permanent video collection. I tried hooking guy this to the output of my DVD player. I recorded about a minute of "Lord of the Rings". The video out is recorded in 4:3 with bars on top&bottom even though it's a widescreen DVD. Interestingly enough, when it's not recording, it displays the DVD input in widescreen 16:9 (even when this chops off part of the video). Needless to say, the recording is not up to DVD quality. You'd be much better off ripping it on a PC. Also, the ASF files it creates are hard to convert to other types, so you might have a hard time viewing them on a non-Windows PC. Best quality recorded video files take about 10MB of space per minute recorded.
Photo viewing: Another thing I'm planning to use this for is showing off my vacation pix to friends without having to print them or have a PC around. It works OK for this. It allows for slideshow and it has 2 fixed "zoom" levels for looking at details. The pictures from my camera (3 megapixels, JPEG) take about 1 sec to load. This seems a bit long to me, but that's a minor hit. Another minor annoyance is that there's no thumbnail gallery viewing mode. This would be another good thing to add in firmware upgrades. Photos seem to be about 640x480 (not even close to full resolution) when viewed in "video out". My camera's A/V jack out works much better for this (though that's to be expected).
Radio: Reception seems OK to me. Works at least as good as my clock radio. Audio quality for recorded radio seems as good as the original show to me.
Voice Recording: Tried this with recording volume set to 9 (max) and best quality. Set the thing on a desk in the corner of the room with the built in mic pointed up. I talked as I moved around the room and into the next room. I could clearly hear my voice from anywhere in the room, and faintly from the next room. There's a little background noise, but I expect that with max volume recording. Best quality audio files take about 1.4MB of space per minute recorded.
Battery life: Haven't done a formal test, but the numbers given by Cowon (10 hrs video, 18hrs audio) seem to be about what I'm getting. I assume it lasts longer if you're watching the video on AV out mode instead of using the screen.
To sum it up: It's not perfect, but it's one of the best PMPs out there today. It all depends on what you want to use it for.
see http://www.dapreview.net/content.php?review.239 for a very thorough review.
see http://www.iaudiophile.net/content.php?review.58.0 for another good review.
see http://www.iaudiophile.net/forums/showthread.php?t=4998 for USB host compatible devices.
Pros Battery Life - Video : 10 hours, Audio: 18 Hours; text viewer, FM Radio, Line In, Voice Recorder, Much Much More...
Cons Battery not Replaceable
Summary I have used the Archos AV500 and it is great but it's lack of some features was a letdown.
The A2 definitely packs those features that are missing on the AV500. It even comes with a leather case that folds back at an angle so you can watch your movies hands-free.
The A2 screen quality is amazing and
the audio quality is incredible. Anyone familiar with iAudio products will know that the sound quality is close to(if not) the best out there. The price is also great competing with the av500. Retail - $400 for 20gb and $450 for 30gb. Doesn't have a 100gb model like archos but maybe in the future.
Also iAudio is constantly releasing firmware that continually upgrades the quality of this product.
The only con this has is the non-removable battery(but it still has great battery life).
Conclusion: Though the Av500 is great, the A2 is phenomonal. I have waiting forever for this thing to be released and finally it's arrived!!! For anyone that wants to watch videos and listen to great sounding music cannot live on without this baby!
Pros Firware upgrades are fast and good. The sound qualtily is also fantastic.
Cons Video recording could be better.
Summary I think cnet needs to re-evaluate the A2 based on the new firmware version 1.61 or even the 1.59 version. The improvements Cowon did in the new firmware is fantastic and make the usuability even better.