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New PMP, Cowon A2

Discussion in 'Sound City' started by TommoUK, 20 Jan 2006.

  1. TommoUK

    Wise Guy

    Joined: 2 Sep 2003

    Posts: 2,161

    I'll post a detailed thing on this later once it's finished charging and I've watched some videos on it, so later tonight most likely :D The Cowon A2 is a new PMP (portable media player) with a 16:9 480x272 4" screen with 24 bit colour. Also, it claims 10 hours battery life whilst watching video (compared to iPod Video's meagre 2/3 hours, and Zen Vision's 4/5 hours), which I will test once fully charged :cool:

    Cost a fair bit (£320), but seems very solid and looks the part. I'll post some pics later.

    Anybody else here have a PMP? The Archos AV500 is another I considered buying which looks nice enough, but I settled for the A2.
  2. Kamakazie!

    Wise Guy

    Joined: 12 Jan 2003

    Posts: 1,831

    awesome. im quite keen on this or the v43 when it eventually comes out so would be pleased with some comments.
  3. stu.artd

    Wise Guy

    Joined: 29 Dec 2003

    Posts: 1,832

    There's a review at http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,1902346,00.asp for anyone wanting more info on the Cowon A2.

    It looks quite nice, although the review picks up on a few niggles. It's a bit too bulky to make me regret getting my 5G iPod though ;)
  4. TommoUK

    Wise Guy

    Joined: 2 Sep 2003

    Posts: 2,161

    I read that review when I was thinking about getting it. It's true that the video recording ability on the A2 is not superb - I've not tried myself, but I hear the AV500 is 2.5 times better in terms of recording quality.

    However, recording was never a reason for me to get it, as I never had the intention of recording from TV. If you do, the AV500 is probably more up your street.

    The A2 is quite bulky, but still fits comfortably in my pocket, even in its case. This seems like a good compromise to me, as the 10 hour battery life for video (all I want to use it for, trusty iPod is still king of mp3 players) is excellent. Whilst I could have opted for the AV500 and bought an additional battery pack, that would have made it close to the £400 mark which is further than I wanted to go. This is certainly where the Cowon poops on the competition :cool:.

    As for the AV500 screen being better, I couldn't say having not seen it, but it's probably because the AV500 doesn't have a protective screen like the A2, the tradeoff being it is more easily scratched.

    Audio quality is perfect, with many fiddley options for those that like to fiddle, I just stuck bass boost on which makes it sound nice. Also, it has FM radio. That's of limited importance to me since I don't listen to the radio much, but it's a nice feature.

    User interface is simple. Not iPod simple as it uses a windows explorer like fat32 system, so it's all in directories. If I used to to store a lot of music, it'd be inconvenient as it's not easy to make playlists either. However, if used primarily for video, it makes it nice and simple. I have a movies folder with subfolders for music videos, TV programs, films and misc. stuff. You control it with a joystick like thingy, which has 4 directions, and you push in to select. I heard a few horror stories about how this was hell and often trying to push in the button resulted in pushing it down - I adjusted to it quickly though. You can push the back button whilst watching a movie, and it plays in the background as you look in the menu (if you want it to, it can be paused/stopped) which is a nice feature. The three context sensitive buttons (imaginatively named A, B and C) make browsing and changing settings pretty easy, too. Another bonus is fast loadup time. I have about 20GB of files on it now, and it still boots up faster than my phone (takes about 7 seconds) and even large movies load up quickly.

    Speaking of movies, support is excellent, catering for most formats, you'll be able to find specifics very quickly with a bit of googling. I use XviD for encoding, and it yields good results.

    The screen is beautiful, slightly smaller than the PSP I believe, at 4", and the same resolution of 480x272 px (16:9) 24bit colour. I've found it surprisingly comfortable to watch long videos on this screen, so no complaints here. The brightness is fine at default, but as there is a thicker screen protection in place, you may want to turn it up so it's more equal to the archos AV500 screen. I'm happy with it at default. Also making viewing comfortable, there case doubles up as a stand. Photos look excellent on the screen, but there is no convenient thumbnail view like you'll find on an iPod.

    There are some speakers which would only be adequate if there was no, or next to no external noise. They're quite quiet, but under the right conditions they're okay. Headphones are the way to go though - besides, watching everything through loud speakers would only annoy other people, particularly as this is probably most often going to be used when travelling. I'm going on a long coach trip soon, so it'll get a good workout :D.

    Getting to the end of my little review, it's easy to move things onto the device as it's recognised as an external drive, you can just drag and drop. Uses USB 2.0, so fairly quick transfer times.

    Few little points:
    • Cowon offers good support, consistantly updating the firmware (v1.51 atm)
    • External subtitle support, which is quite handy. You can change the colour/size if you like in the menu
    • Microphone - fairly good microphone is adequate for recording things like lectures, if that's your thang
    • Can output to TV with no problem (though using 480x272 not that visually pleasing, higher resolutions are available)
    • Finally, the A2 quite aesthetically pleasing in my opinion

    Some minor niggles:
    • Poor video recording from what I've heard - better than none though
    • Bulky. Although you couldn't expect iPod compactness with a 4" screen, it is much less pocketable
    • No id3 tag ordering support, for this reason it's not going to be ideal for music storage
    • Poor playlist abilities, again this is a minor quibble if you're mainly using for video
    • Only shows one thumbnail at a time for photo viewing
    • Has joystick control which some find inconvenient

    So, to wrap it up, the Cowon A2 is a fantastic video player, excellent battery life and screen with wide viewing angle, plus large support for different formats and more than capable audio. Reliable and sturdily built.

    However, not as user-friendly as the iPod for browsing/organising music, and much less compact. Additionally, whilst video recording is currently an uncommon feature, the competition performs this task more aptly than the A2.

    I'm very happy with the purchase. I can tell it'll make long journeys much more bearable, and it's a nice new gadget :p. For the purposes I want it for, it is perfect. If you're interested yourself, I recommend first you look at alternatives and read more reviews - the av500 is better suited to some as the video recording is superior.

    I give it a healthy 8.782/10.

    Some other reviews:
    Very indepth review from DAPReview
    Another detailed review, from iAudiophile.net
    ZDNet Review

    Pics to follow.