Cowon E2 2GB review
Cowon's latest MP3 player, the E2, bears more than a passing resemblance to Apple's iPod Shuffle, being roughly the size of a pack of chewing gum and lacking a screen. There are many differences between the two, though.
The E2 has playback controls and a power button on its right-hand side, while the volume controls and menu button sit on its left hand side. All this is preferable to the iPod shuffle's more minimalist controls. It makes it more flexible too, as any pair of earphones can be used with the E2 without losing playback control – a problem for the Shuffle, as its controls are located on an inline remote on the included earphones. There are some problems, though. The buttons are a little small, so people with large fingers will find them a little fiddly; and bizarrely there isn't a hold switch to prevent accidental button presses.
An equaliser is an unexpected bonus on such a cheap player. The menu button cycles through the presets, with a synthesised voice telling you the name of each. Holding it down randomises the play order of your tracks, but, unsurprisingly, there's no support for playlists and the E2's synthesised voice can't tell you the name of your tracks - like the Shuffle can.
We were unimpressed with the sound quality of the bundled earphones. Every genre of music we tried sounded muddy, lacking detail and warmth. Bass was weak, so bass-heavy music sounded flat and unsatisfying. Clarity and detail increased significantly with a quality, third party set of earphones. Some tracks, especially jazz and classical pieces, still didn't sound as clear as we would like though and the bass still wasn't thumping enough for our tastes. The battery lasted for ten hours and 36 minutes which doesn't sound like much, but is in line with what we'd expect from a player of this size.
The E2 lacks the Shuffle's clip, which keeps it firmly fastened to your clothing. It does have an integrated metal ring so it can be hung from a keychain, although we don't think it's as useful as a clip. As with the Shuffle, the 3.5mm headphone jack also doubles as a USB socket for charging and data transfer. A USB adapter cable is included, but sadly the widely available Shuffle cable isn't compatible.
Cowon's E2 is less fiddly to use than Apple's iPod Shuffle and it's cheaper too. The audio quality is disappointing, though, especially compared to previous Cowon players which generally sound very good. If you're looking for a small, cheap MP3 player then our pick is SanDisk's Sansa Clip+. It has superior sound quality, slightly longer battery life and, best of all, has double the storage capacity for only £6 more.