Discovering the Cowon X7 is like spotting a live dinosaur, roaming around Britain's green fields, battling for grazing room among the cows and sheep. It's a hard drive MP3 player in a market that has long been dominated by flash memory devices. The result is that this is one enormous beast - more a Brachiosaurus than an Iguanodon (to really stretch that metephor) - looking more like a PDA than a touchscreen smartphone or simple music player. It thankfully has a few tricks up its sleeve to justify this complete disregard for evolution.
The Cowon X7 seems huge next to almost all current portable devices. The 120GB internal hard drive makes sure it's not slim at 14.5mm, and the 4.3in screen is large even by today's giant touchscreen standards. The body stretches out beyond the screen too, with a generous bezel making the X7 significantly larger than the iPod Classic 160GB - the only big-name rival for this media player at present.
Yes, it's a biggie, but it doesn't feel that much heavier than the iPod Classic in-hand, even though at 212g it is aroun 50g more. What makes the Cowon X7 feel so grand, so oversized, is its width. At 78.6mm wide it'll fill even the largest mitt, and those with smaller hands will have trouble wrapping your digits comfortably around its body. Anyone thinking they're getting a svelte, ultra-pocketable media player with the X7 is clearly looking in the wrong place.
Build quality is great though, and the touchscreen removes the need for a set of design-diluting physical playback controls. There's a pair of volume controls on the left hand-side, a power button on the right and a menu button front and centre, but these are the only physical buttons on-show. On the Cowon X7's bottom are the 3.5mm headphone jack, power socket and a flap containing the connector port that doubles as a USB connection, video out and audio in - the last two requiring extra cables not included in the box.
A utilitarian workhorse, the Cowon X7's front also features a speaker, and there's a mic around the back, both of which are missing from the iPod Classic. The closer you look into the player, the more you see that its features start to justify its bulky body. It doesn't have the desirability of an iPod Touch. But it does have a few features that the Touch can't replace with its wealth of apps, and of course it has the advantage of it's all-too-rare huge storage.