Cowon iAudio S9 PMP
Step forward, first real iPod Touch beater
Review Monopolies are never a good thing and, frankly, Apple's iPod Touch has had things its own way for rather too long.
Yes, there are better MP3 players and better PMPs, but the former are all too small to realistically watch movies on while the latter are just too big to be easily slipped into a pocket. Direct competition, such as it was, came only from the Samsung P2 but the P2's screen and storage were both too small. Video file support being limited to WMV didn't help, either.
Cowon's iAudio S9: on yer bike, iPod Touch
Now Cowon's S9 has rolled up with the clear intention of wiping the smile right off the Touch's face.
In terms of external dimensions, the S9 couldn't be much closer to the Touch. At 106 x 56 x 12.7mm it's a shade shorter and narrower but a bit thicker around the middle – though it tapers towards the top and bottom. At only 68g, though, the S9 has the 115g Touch beaten. Yes, the S9 is clearly made of plastic, but it's still well made, and solid.
The S9 isn't devoid of exterior controls, quite the contrary. Up top there are volume, pause/play/menu and forward/back/scan rocker controls, while at the bottom there is an on/off/lock slider. But it's the touchscreen that does the donkey work.
Unfortunately, at some point between the design of the iAudio A3 and the S9, Cowon decided that proprietary USB ports are a really good idea. We beg to differ. At least it has a 3.5mm earphone socket, on the bottom.
Chatter generated by the first sightings of the S9 suggested that the UI was half-baked. Either those reports were nonsense or Cowon upped its game before the official release, because, as it stands, the S9's UI is not half bad.
No gapless = insta-fail
The lack of gapless is a deal breaker for someone who listens to dj mix compilations a lot.
Also lack of Wi-Fi. If you are aiming at iPod's you need to aim a LOT higher.
> we were left wondering why Apple alone seem to understand the value of gapless playback
well originally Apple didn't understand gapless but Sony *did*. The original ATRAC "network walkmans" (like my HD3) certainly did but original iPod's didn't - that's one of the reasons why I discarded iPod as an option.
Sadly, in the new "MP3" incarnations Sony appear to have dropped gapless + ATRAC is no more. So when/if I come to replace the HD3 looks like Sony may be much less attractive and iTouch is a option again (after all,. as I'm going to have to rerip all my CDs then there's no benefit of sticking with Sony)
I'll be getting one. My D2 is getting a tad tired, so yay for upgrade time. Only drawback is no SDHC slot, so I'll wait for the 32GB.
If I wanted wifi and email on a device, I'd get a PDA or a smartphone. This is a music player, not a communications device. If you're into device convergence, great, get the iPhone or a Sony Ericsson Walkman jobbie.
While I've had my niggles with Cowon firmware as well - yes, OGG playback in order is somewhat annoying - at least they do regular firmware releases. I do hope the release firmware on this one is decent. I don't use playlists - I use folders - but you can create them using a PC media manager when the device is in MTP mode.
The comparison with Honda Legends and BMWs is just ridiculous. The Cowon devices are capable of so much more than iPods, and have much better sound. Now they've solved the "sexiness" quotient, I think we do have an iPod-beater on our hands.
Final note, the device works great with all the major OSes. I use Linux mainly at home; it's all good with Amarok and the usual media players.
Don't get it
"The crucial difference is that the Touch is part of a large and growing infrastructure that extends its usefulness in ways the Cowon could never do. WiFi (how did Cowon leave that out? Like the BB Storm...), email, web browsing, the App Store (including turning your Touch into a remote media controller), games, calendar, contacts, etc., etc., etc."
Funny, I remember doing all that with my Dell Axim back in '04. And I could even take the battery out of it.
I don't get the whole fanbase thing. What, because Apple says PDA functions are now "cool" suddenly they're a must have on all PMPs? If you want a PDA, why not just buy a real one instead of Apple's crappy iMitation? An iPaq 111 is 299USD + the cost of your favorite size SDHC card. Not that bad compared to the Touch, particularly when you consider all the freeware programs for WM (MiniMo, PuTTY, KoboDL, etc.), the storage expansion, the better format support, the faster processor, and the replaceable battery.
Looks nice. But why buy a Honda Legend when you could get a BMW 5 series for a little bit more?