To give full flight to the screen, the A3's video file support is nothing if not comprehensive, Cowon's spec sheet running to AVI, WMV, ASF, MPEG 1, 2 and 4, MATROSKA MKV, OGM, MPG/MPEG, VOB, DAT, and MTV. Codec support extends to DivX 3.11, 4, 5 and 6, XviD, H.264 and Motion JPEG. If you have spotted anything missing you really do need to get out more. What all this techno-babble really means is that the A3 will play pretty much anything you have on your PC without you having to faff about re-encoding it before copying it across.
Transferring data onto the A3 via Windows Explorer is a pretty quick operation. A 720MB AVI file took only three minutes 18 seconds to move from PC to A3.
Audio support is no less thorough, with MPEG 1 Layer 1, 2 and 3, WMA, FLAC, Ogg, AAC/AAC+, AC3, BSAC, True Audio, WavPack, G.726 and CM all good to go. When recording audio you can chose between 128 or 192Kb/s WMA or FLAC lossless.
File support for still images doesn't disappoint either, with JPG, GIF, PNG, TIF, BMP and RAW files all welcome, while the document reader will open and display MS Word, Excel, PDF and PowerPoint files.
The A3 has more inputs and outputs than you can shake a stick at so you can play back or record content through a TV, record direct from a DVD or CD player or plug directly into a digital stills or video camera. A further pleasant surprise is the number of cables supplied, including s-video and AV leads and a USB-to-mini-USB adaptor which allows the A3 to be connected to a USB drive or any other mass-storage device or media player.
Despite all this, the supplied earphones proved a bit low rent. Sure they work, but the sort of person who coughs up Cowon's asking price is probably going to want a high-quality set of ear buds which should really come as standard at this sort of price. Or maybe Cowon reckons its target customer already has a preferred set of 'phones, which may well be the case.
With a power output of 32mW, the A3 is more than capable of driving a decent pair of cans, indeed we tested it using a pair or Beyerdynamics DT250s which sounded glorious.
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.