Summary

Our Score

8/10

Review Price free/subscription

Cowon iAudio 9 (16GB)

We described the predecessor to the iAudio 9 - the inspiringly named iAudio 7 - as being like your funny uncle. A bit quirky, entirely likeable, but you wouldn't really want to be seen in public with him, especially not with your friends. The iAudio 9 is still similar in many respects, but now that uncle has put on a suit, dropped the corny jokes and could probably just about make it through dinner without telling your partner about that incident with the jelly and a trampoline on your 12th birthday you swore should never be mentioned again. In short, it's a definite improvement.
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The iAudio 9's dimensions of 43mm x 95mm x 8.6mm and 40g weight leave it fated to comparison to Apple's iPod nano. In figures the iAudio 9 is slightly larger and heavier, but in the hand or pocket the difference is literally unnoticeable. However, with an 8GB iAudio 9 costing £99 and a 16GB model priced at £120, the Cowon player is notably cheaper than equivalent capacity iPod nanos - and these numbers do matter.

The overall design is an unsurprising evolution from the iAudio 7. The matt black finish verges on bland, but I quite like its functional look and I imagine the other colours will look similarly tasteful. For certain, this player feels more 'grown up' than an iPod nano; neither form nor function have taken priority here and it just works.

The player's top half of the front is filled by a 2in, 240 x 320 pixel display, while the bottom half is a capacitive sensor san the indentations of the previous model. The controls are context sensitive, but with a little common sense it's easy to guess what each will do in a given screen. When navigating menus, for example, it’s pretty obvious that a swipe of the navigation bar will scroll up or down while on the now playing screen the same action will pilot through the current track.
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Because of the sheer number of options available on the iAudio 9 some sub menus are buried a little. To help, you can press and hold controls to access shortcuts. In the now playing screen, for example, pressing and holding play/pause gives quick access to the equaliser and playbacks settings (repeat options, shuffle and speed).

This capacitive control surface is backed up by a volume rocker on the left edge, plus a menu button, and combined hold and power two-way switch on the right. Sliding this down and holding it turns the player on or off, a quick flick down turns the display and touch-sensitive controls on or off, and locking the slider up puts the controls on hold.

Usefully the iAudio 9 gives you a couple of options as to how restrictive that hold mode is. Either it can disable all controls, both physical and touch-sensitive, or it can disable everything except the left rocker-button and the menu button - the former then working either as a forwards/back or volume control and the latter becoming a play/pause control instead.

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