"One of the best PMPs out there today"4.0 starson by tom_2727
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.