Not the beat about the bush, the colour density, crispness and definition of the S9's screen are all simply outstanding. The opening scenes of Star Wars: Episode III - encoded as a 680 x 272 AVI DivX file - have never looked as clear and colourful on anything this side of a Cowon A3 or Archos 5. The almost exaggerated sense of clarity you get from the S9's screen has to be seen to be fully appreciated.
The screen's a very bright OLED panel
The Cowon S9's screen genuinely advances the science of PMP screens - by some margin. Notwithstanding the slightly smaller size and lower resolution than the Touch, we would rate the S9's as the superior screen of the two.
Cowon claims a Korean-specification S9 will play back any video with a resolution of 1280 x 720 at 30f/s or less. We tried it with ours and could it heck as like. A 720p WMV9 trailer for Ice Age 3 was wholly un-watchable, being just a mess of pixelated blocks.
The highest resolution files our S9 managed to play were a 720 x 480 WMV file of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. This would suggest that the S9 will cope with most of the video content likely to be thrown at it without too much messing about with re-formatting.
Audio playback is also right on the money, even when using the bundled earphones, which if not exactly in the Sony league are still a step up from what Apple or Samsung give you. We have to put the Cowon right up with the best of the breed in terms of sound quality. It's not quite on a par with the Sony Walkman S, but there's nothing to chose between the S9 and the iPod Touch.
The screen's great for stills and video
Cowon's take on sound modification technology goes by the name of JetEffect 2.0 and lets you chose any one of 17 EQ pre-sets or set up four of your own. You also get eight sound modifiers licensed from California-based sound gurus BBE which perform the usual 3D expansion, stereo separation and bass-boost functions.
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?