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Bringing true innovation to a sector as intensely competitive as MP3 players is a difficult thing to do. Mostly, companies satisfy themselves with trying to outdo each other on the style front. Others focus on sound quality above all else, and there are one or two who just chuck as many features at their players as possible and then sell them at seemingly suicidal prices.
But every now and then a player comes along that truly breaks new ground. Enter the Cowon D2 DMB. Not the most imaginatively named product, admittedly, but it's the first MP3 player we've seen to have built-in digital radio (DAB), and it's also the first flash memory MP3 player that I've played with to have a touch-screen. It is also DMB capable, which means in theory that it can receive broadcast TV programming. In practice it's a damp squib as there are no DMB broadcasts in the UK right now.
I was quite excited about the prospect of being able to listen to proper sports coverage - Radio 5 Live - on the same device as my music. Radio 5 is on medium wave, which means I can't normally listen to it on any of the FM radio-equipped players I have hanging around and have to take a separate portable radio around with me if I want to keep in touch with the results. With this, I could listen to 5 Live and switch over to my own music once Sports Report had finished, so as soon as it arrived I eagerly whipped the D2 out of the box to have a play.
First impressions were certainly favourable. The D2 isn't attractive in a designery, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen sort of way, but it is well-built and fits nicely into the palm of your hand. If you want a comparison, it's about the size of a couple of matchboxes lined up, side by side.
A 2.5in screen fills most of the frontage and there are a few basic controls - hold, volume and menu - on the top edge. Other than this, it's a pretty minimalist affair. On the left you'll find the audio out socket and a small flap covering the USB and AV connections, while down below there's an SD slot for expanding the player's memory capacity. A welcome feature, given how cheap flash memory is these days.
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