The idea of carrying a lot of equipment around in order to enjoy audiophile sound quality and stunning music should not be something dismissed out of hand. The sheer pleasure that can be had from adding a decent pair of noise-cancelling headphones and a portable headphone amplifier to your setup is incredible to behold.
But you have to draw the line somewhere; bigger isn't always better, after all. And that's the feeling I got when I first clapped eyes (and hands) on Cowon's 'luxury' personal media player (PMP), the Q5W. Though extremely solidly built, with a metal body that feels as if it's armour-plated, this player is just too heavy at 380g to go anywhere but a briefcase or bag. I carried it in a sturdy inside jacket pocket on more that one commute and felt distinctly uncomfortable with my jacket insistently tugging at my left shoulder. Compared to the more pocket-friendly Archos 605 WiFi or Cowon's own A3, it's a beast.
Its size of course, is largely due to its huge, 800 x 480 5in screen. This is one of the largest you'll encounter in a PMP, and it's stupendous to watch. A glossy finish contributes to dark black levels and a smooth movie-watching experience that's undeniably top of its game. And there's plenty of juice in the built-in battery to enjoy it out on the move. It can offer a decent seven hours of playback time - enough for several full-length movies, including some of the longer ones.
But again, it's not quite good enough to justify the size. Though a pleasure to watch, the aforementioned 605 WiFi and A3 manage to squeeze only slightly smaller 4.3in and 4in screens into much slimmer and more compact chassis. The Q5W also runs pretty hot, and with no kickstand, gets uncomfortable to hold after a while.
Of course size and weight isn't the only big thing about the Q5W. It's also big on features. Rammed into this player's sturdy chassis is a round-up of extras to make a fully-functioning PDA go green at the gills: there's Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, an FM radio, a 40GB hard disk and it all runs on a full copy of Windows CE Pro 5.0, which the device drops into whenever you enter web browsing mode. The latter allows you to read and edit Office files (though not the latest .docx formats), play Solitaire or Freecell and even use MSN Messenger.
Around the edges of the device are more useful features. On the top edge is a pair of reasonably loud speakers (given the size), and under a flap on the side there's not only a mini-USB port but also a full-sized USB-A port for connecting low-powered USB thumbdrives and hard disks for extra capacity and file transfer.