Cowon iAudio A3 personal media player
Watch out, Archos
Review There's something almost bespoke about the Cowon A3 media player, a device that seems unapologetically to have had time and money lavished on its technical ability rather than its packaging.
Out of the box, the rather bluff and chunky A3 looks and feels exactly like the Cowon A2, weighing a not inconsiderable 280g for the 30GB version and measuring 134 x79 x 22mm. Notwithstanding the slight retro feel, it's well bolted together out of high quality plastics and looks the part in its understated colour scheme of black and silver.
Cowon's A3: understated looks
You control the player using what Cowon calls a "joggle" lever - a circular four-way controller with a fifth, joystick-like button in the middle - a Back key and and three variable-function buttons, all set to the right of the screen. If you touch the screen, all you achieve is getting a fingerprint on it. The control interface is neither funky nor trick, but it does the job. In essence, all you do is use the joggle stick to move from icon to icon then push to trigger. At the bottom of the screen, you can then see what buttons A, B and C do in that particular view. To go back just hit the Back key. Simple.
Other exterior controls consist of the on/off switch on the right side; a slider at the bottom to switch the display from the LCD to the AV port, and which also locks the player; a mic and speaker up top; and, on the left, a 3.5mm headphone jack, power socket and the cover for the plethora of AV jacks.
Adjust playback on the fly
The A3's 4in, 800 x 480 resolution, 16m-colour TFT screen is little short of a work of art and makes nearly every other comparable personal media player on the market look like an Etch-a-Sketch. Supporting video resolution up to 1280 x 720 - so we are talking HD here - it's simply a thing of beauty. Bright, clear and crisp with solid blacks, it is by some way the best PMP screen we've seen, besting even the Archos 605.
Actually, it does sound interesting considering that the one format I would really like to use is the Matroska format. However, reading through this review, I'm a little concerned that the reviewer seems to push this idea that fashion has something to do with function. It is just the same with mobile phones these days; I don't want to WEAR it, I want to USE it!
160GB and touch screen...
...and it's mine. I'll wait.
But can the user replace the battery?
I bought a Cowan iAudio M5(?) a few years back and was very happy with it, until time came for another trip back to blighty last year and I discovered that the battery won't hold much charge any more.
This is well-known behaviour of Lithium/whatever batteries, however Cowan consider the battery replacement an "out of warranty *repair*" and expected me to mail the player to them in California, wait several weeks for it to return, and pay a significant percentage of the original purchase price for the favour.
I informed them then that I would never buy another product of theirs until this was fixed: the SanDisk players, for instance, have a user-replaceable battery.
They, or course, completely ignored this and replied telling me once again how long it would take to "repair". Not impressed.
Considering the fuss people made about the similar battery situation with the accursed iPhone, I'm disappointed that this aspect is rarely if ever mentioned in reviews.
I'm particularly disappointed as few other manufacturers seem to want to support Ogg and FLAC formats, but I will not be held to ransom over a battery.
Battery life is less because..
The higher resolution screen and the more powerful processors on the unit (to handle HD resolutions).
With that said about 85% of what the A3 can do, the A2 can do as well.
9 hours battery for audio ?
That's odd, I have an A2 (which I'm very happy with) and when playing audio with the screen off it can manage around 14 hours. (You get around 6-7 hours of video playback)
I wonder what they changed in the design to hurt the battery life so much?