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Cowon iAudio S9 8GB review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : 169
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.

Details

Price £169
Rating ****
Headphone Rating ***

Hardware

Capacity 8.00GB
Formatted capacity 7.56GB
Interface USB
Storage medium flash memory
Battery and charge options Lithium Polymer, USB
Size 57x13x106mm
Weight 90g

Features

Device has screen? Yes
Viewable size 3.3 in
Native resolution 480×272
Memory card support none
FM Radio yes
Audio record options microphone, radio
Video record options none
Supplied with headphones, USB cable

Test Results

Tested battery life (MP3 playback) 35h 19m
Tested battery life (Video playback) 6h 58m
500MB transfer time 1m 50s
Audio MP3 playback Yes
Audio WMA playback Yes
Audio WMA-DRM playback Yes
Audio AAC playback No
Audio Protected AAC playback No
Audio OGG playback Yes
Audio WAV playback Yes
Audio Audible playback No
Image BMP support No
Image JPEG support Yes
Image TIFF support No
Video MPEG-4 AVI playback Yes
Video MPEG-4 MP4 playback No
Video WMV playback Yes
Video MPEG-1 playback No
Video MPEG-2 playback No
Video MPEG-2 VOB playback No
Video MPEG-4 DivX/XviD support Yes
Video H.264 support No
Video MPEG-4 MP3 audio support No
Video MPEG-4 AAC audio support No
Download compatibility Plays For Sure subscription and download

Buying Information

Price per MB 2.1p
Warranty one year RTB
Supplier http://www.advancedmp3players.co.uk
Details www.cowonglobal.com

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