Cowon strikes at Archos with Wi-Fi media player
IFA 07 South Korea's Cowon today grew its stylish iAudio digital media player series with a pair of new models. The star of line-up: the Wi-Fi equipped Q5, a would-be Archos beater if there was one.
Cowon's iAudio Q5: wireless wonder
Built around a 5in, 800 x 480, 16m-colour touchsensitive display, the Q5 also packs in a 60GB hard drive for storage ready for MP3, Ogg, FLAC, WAV, WMA and ASF audio files, and AVI, ASF, WMV, MPEG 4 and DivX videos. It'll happily present JPEG, BMP, PNG and Raw photos too, on its own screen or through its TV port.
The Q5 boasts a SPDIF digital audio output too - or you can listen through earphones or the player's built-in stereo speakers.
Cowon's iAudio Q5: USB host
Feeding the player is easy: download content from the internet via the Q5's Wi-Fi or from a Bluetooth-connect mobile phone. There's a USB port for transferring files over from a PC, but the device can act as a USB host, allowing it to grab pics directly from digital cameras, camcorders, Flash drives and so on.
Cowon also took the wraps off the iAudio A3 today, the successor to its A2 handheld media player. The new model boasts a 4in, 800 x 480 display and the ability to play even more music and movie formats than the Q5, including Apple Lossless, AAC and the Matroska formats.
Heck, it'll even render PDF and Microsoft Office files for your reading pleasure.
Cowon's iAudio A3: supports every content format under the sun?
Like the Q5, the A3 can be hook up to a TV, but it'll also grab and digitise into MPEG 4 format video from camcorders, VCRs, set-top boxes and other sources. There's an audio line-in too, and the A3 will record programmes you've tuned its FM radio into.
Cowon claimed you'll get up to seven hours' video playback time out of a single charge of the A3's battery - ten hours if you just listen to music. The Q5 has the same video play time, but can pump out music for up to 14 hours.
Cowon said the Q5 will arrive in Europe late September, priced at €649 ($886/£439) for the 40GB version and €699 ($954/£473xc) for the 60GB model. The A3 comes out at the same time, priced at €449 ($613/£304) for the 30GB product, €499 ($681/£338) for the 60GB model.
N800 looks good but...
...what about capacity? is 16GB enough?
Also, the cowon Q5 has a slightly bigger screen at 5inches. From using an Archos 604 (4.3"), I would say that the 5" is worth having over the 4.1". The price is important but once you've bought two 4GB SD cards, you will have spent over £300 for a sim free N800.
I have a problem with the N800 in that it is too big to use as a phone, but is perhaps not quite big enough to compare with the latest PMP's.
The open source aspect is enviable though, and it does have many desirable features.
Like I say, the problem is that I wouldn't use it as a phone, so since I'd use two devices anyway I might as well get the K850i cybershot (fits in my jean pocket) for the pub photos and the Cowon Q5 for the airplane/train rides.
Why get this over an N800?
Maybe I'm missing something, but wouldn't an N800 be a better use of the funds? Same res screen, same media support, same battery life, stylish, half the price, plus other distractions like web browser, games, streaming media, and skype? The old N770's even much cheaper still, if a bit less capable. Shockingly expensive media players like this seem to have no niche at all.
(Admittedly when the N800 was released it was more promise than fulfillment, but it's come a pretty long way.)
What happened to HSDPA for the Q5?
Q5 has HSDPA support in Korea I hope it hasnt been removed for the EU release...
can the new Cowon units playback video smoother than their A2?
When I was shopping around for a PMP back at the very end of 2005 I initially bought a Cowon A2 because it looked very nice, it could play a variety of video formats without the need for conversion and had a big battery. However I sent it back after a week because unless you're playing a video file that runs at ~30fps it's has noticable uneven speed (much like watching a region 1 DVD on a tv because of the telecine effect). The majority of ~30fps material out there is the behind the scenes extras on region 1 DVDs and some US tv shows, everything else is ~24fps from either region 1 film DVDs or US tv shows (as most are all shot at 24fps now) and 25fps UK DVDs/tv shows.
The unit I got instead was an Archos AV500 and the video playback on it is very smooth in comparison to the A2 at every framerate I threw at it (even at 120fps), because it uses a technique developed for traditional CRTs - interlacing, which is virtually unnoticable on the AV500's screen. I still use it a lot to this day to watch content on it's own screen or hook it up to a tv, and the video recording capability is far superior to that of the A2's.
Just a shame Archos have 'neutered' all their units from the AV500 and onwards by locking them so you can't upgrade the harddrive yourself, the unit complains if you stick another drive in and refuses to use it.
I've been an enthusiastic Archos user for several years, starting with an AV420 then an AV500 and now an 80GB 504, all of which have kept me sane on my 3 hr daily commute. I also thank god I didn't give in to my herding instincts and go down the horribly restrictive iPod route. I hear what people say about codec support but don't understand the argument at all, as there are plenty of free conversion tools available to repackage your existing content, and in my experience nearly all the videos I have come into possession of pretty much play with no fuss at all in any case.
Having said that I've watched Cowon with some interest as I have heard that the screen quality is very good, but was always put off by the lack of anything like a decent capacity. A 60gb model may do the job but that just brings up my other beef - the price! Its way above what Archos are charging. Still, competition is always a good thing and maybe this will gee up Archos into picking up some of its slack.