Cowon iAudio S9 8GB review

Alan Lu
25 Jun 2009
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT


Cowon's iAudio S9 bears an uncanny resemblance to Apple's iPod Touch. Both are portable audio and video players that are controlled using large touchscreens. Despite this, the S9 differs from the Touch in numerous ways.

It lacks many of the Touch's extra features, such as the ability to browse the internet and install third-party programs and games. When it comes to listening to audio, however, it has everything you'd expect. Unlike the Touch, it offers integrated Bluetooth, so you can use it with cordless headphones. It also has a built-in FM radio, although its reception was poor in our London offices. It supports far more audio file formats than the Touch, including audiophiles' favourites Ogg and FLAC.

Its audio quality is excellent. Music sounded well balanced and detailed through a quality pair of headphones. As usual, the included earphones aren't worth keeping, though, as they sound muddy and the bass is very weak.

Like the iPod Touch, the S9 has an orientation sensor, which means you can turn it sideways to enjoy your photos and videos in landscape mode. We were immediately taken with the S9's bright widescreen display. Colours look especially rich and vivid, even when the brightness is reduced to help save battery life. It's one of the best screens we've seen. The 16:9 aspect ratio means any black bars on widescreen videos should be kept to a minimum. The device plays DivX, XviD and WMV videos but not MPEG4 or H264. Usefully, it generates thumbnails automatically at set intervals in your videos. These work like DVD chapters, so you can quickly jump to your favourite scenes.

We were disappointed, but not surprised, to find that the S9's touchscreen isn't as responsive as the Touch's, and requires firmer and more precise taps. Although the interface isn't nearly as infuriating as the one found on Cowon's D2 touchscreen player, it isn't as logically organised or as satisfying to use as the Touch's. Some icons are unlabelled and hard to decipher, while some menus are confusing to navigate. The controls are inconsistent - some require a double tap, while others don't. Dedicated volume and playback buttons are provided, but the pointed pause button is uncomfortable to use.

Battery life is impressive. The S9 lasted 35 hours and 19 minutes when playing music, which is among the best we've seen, although the iPod Touch lasted four and a half hours longer. The S9 beat the Touch in video playback, though, lasting almost seven hours to the Touch's six.

Cowon's iAudio S9 is an impressive portable audio and video player. Despite its lack of support for H.264 video, it's a good alternative to the iPod Touch for enjoying both music and videos. However, the Touch's superior interface and wealth of extra features make it far more flexible. Both devices are expensive, though. Philips' GoGear 8GB media player may not have a touchscreen, but at less than half the price it's a far better- value portable video player.


Headphone Rating***


Formatted capacity7.56GB
Storage mediumflash memory
Battery and charge optionsLithium Polymer, USB


Device has screen?Yes
Viewable size3.3 in
Native resolution480x272
Memory card supportnone
FM Radioyes
Audio record optionsmicrophone, radio
Video record optionsnone
Supplied withheadphones, USB cable

Test Results

Tested battery life (MP3 playback)35h 19m
Tested battery life (Video playback)6h 58m
500MB transfer time1m 50s
Audio MP3 playbackYes
Audio WMA playbackYes
Audio WMA-DRM playbackYes
Audio AAC playbackNo
Audio Protected AAC playbackNo
Audio OGG playbackYes
Audio WAV playbackYes
Audio Audible playbackNo
Image BMP supportNo
Image JPEG supportYes
Image TIFF supportNo
Video MPEG-4 AVI playbackYes
Video MPEG-4 MP4 playbackNo
Video WMV playbackYes
Video MPEG-1 playbackNo
Video MPEG-2 playbackNo
Video MPEG-2 VOB playbackNo
Video MPEG-4 DivX/XviD supportYes
Video H.264 supportNo
Video MPEG-4 MP3 audio supportNo
Video MPEG-4 AAC audio supportNo
Download compatibilityPlays For Sure subscription and download

Buying Information

Price per MB2.1p
Warrantyone year RTB

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