Cowon i9 16GB review
Cowon's i9 portable audio player is impressively light and slender, yet it has 16GB of storage and is reasonably priced. Previous Cowon players we've seen have had unusual controls and the i9 is no exception.
The i9 has a series of touch-sensitive buttons. Unusually, the buttons for scrolling through its menus are arranged diagonally instead of vertically. This feels odd, especially since most of the menus are still arranged vertically. They aren't any faster or more accurate at scrolling through long lists of music than the buttons used on other MP3 players, but are easy enough to get used to.
The diagonal controls, as well as the initially perplexing appearance and arrangement of icons in some of the diagonal menus, feels like a poorly thought-out gimmick rather than a logical control system. Volume is adjusted using a dedicated pair of physical buttons, but these are located on the lower left hand edge of the player, and so aren't very comfortable to use.
We were more impressed with the i9's sound quality. No matter what genre we listened to, music sounded rich, clear, detailed and full of bass. You'll need a quality, third party set of earphones to hear this quality though. The bundled set sound muddy, lack detail and have little bass.
If you tire of your own music, there's an integrated FM radio, but finding stations using the touch sensitive buttons is fiddly and we weren't impressed with the reception quality either. The i9's battery lasted just under 26 hours when playing music. This is respectable, but we've seen similarly priced players last longer.
The small 2in screen isn't ideal for watching video content, especially not epic movies. This is a shame since, in our tests, the battery lasted for four-and-a-half hours when playing video, which is enough for a couple of films. We had no problem playing Xvid and WMV videos; they looked bright and sharp, despite the typically low 320 x 240 screen resolution.
Cowon's i9 is a competent enough portable audio and video player, but there's little that make it stand out from the competition. The gimmicky controls and menus aren't as well-designed as those on Apple's similarly priced and sized 16GB iPod nano.
If you don't mind a slightly heavier MP3 player, an even better choice is Philips' 16GB GoGear Muse. Its battery lasts far longer when playing music, it has wider video format support, a bigger and higher-resolution screen to enjoy them on, built-in noise cancellation and sensible controls. It's a far superior portable audio player.
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