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Cowon Z2 review

Gordon Kelly

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Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score

7/10

Pros

  • Class leading audio performance
  • Smooth HD video playback
  • Responsive UI

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Ageing Android 2.3.5 OS
  • Clunky design

Review Price £219.00

Key Features: 3.7in AMOLED Display; 1080p video playback; JetEffect 5 Sound Enhancement Technology; Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread; Mini HDMI output; microSD slot

Manufacturer: Cowon

Audiophiles love Cowon. The South Korean multinational has developed an unrivalled reputation for the sound quality of its portable devices, but it has gained an equal number of detractors for their cost and utilitarian design. The Z2 is the product Cowon hopes can finally please everyone…

Design

Out the box this perception isn't immediately challenged. The angular Cowon Z2 is far from the most beautiful PMP we've seen and at 116.5 x 62.8 x 11.8mm and 116g it isn't the most compact either. In hand things get a little better. The rubberised, lightly textured back provides just enough grip to stop it slipping from hand and feels durable enough to withstand bumps and scuffs. The front is less impressive with a fascia that is a fingerprint magnet and touch sensitive menu, home and back buttons which are not backlit making control in low light more difficult than it should be.

Cowon Z2

Cowon does rather better with the rest of the Z2. On the right side volume controls are supported by dedicated play/pause and skip/search buttons which give the first hint of the Cowon Z2's multimedia-centric nature. On top is a power/standby button and at the bottom is a 3.5mm headphone jack with microUSB, (64GB compatible) microSD and mini HDMI ports hidden under a flap. A nice touch is this seemingly extraneous flap doubles up as a kickstand, which holds the Z2 in place when watching video.

To load content onto the Z2 simply switch it into 'USB mass storage' mode, connect it to a PC and drag and drop content. As the Z2 is natively formatted in NTFS Mac users will have a harder time, but conversion software such as Paragon NTFS for Mac provides a simple workaround.

Cowon Z2 2

Features

Under the hood things begin to look more phone than PMP. The Cowon Z2 is equipped with a 1GHz Cortex A8 CPU, 512MB RAM and a choice of 16GB or 32GB of internal memory, which can be augmented by the aforementioned microSD slot. On top of this you'll find Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and an accelerometer.

These specs and the facia's buttons give away the Z2's primary selling point: it is equipped with Android. Aside from the ill-fated, underpowered D3, Cowon has largely stuck to its own proprietary OS until now so the move to Google's platform represents a renewed (and possibly forced) venture to cram more functionality into its flagship players. To keep things slick Cowon has conservatively opted for Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread and, while it is dated, everything whizzes along and Cowon has spruced things up with its tasteful 'Plenue' skin.

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Achim Veuhoff

February 6, 2013, 4:06 pm

Got this little thing yesterday. First thing I did was a firmware update. It's maybe the honeymoon phase but I just can't find any REALLY heavy cons about it. Audio reproduction is flawless (it plays even *.ape files = raw CD-images!). Video works smooth, wlan fine, youtube no problem. Battery life is good, just clean the RAM and remove useless background tasks -> no problem in standby-mode. Very good device.

superdave68

April 4, 2013, 9:57 pm

i have been thinking of replacing my aging O2 PMP with this, does the device use idv tag data or is it like the O2, using file browse mode ? i guess i am a creature of habit and really like the file browse mode. the O2 will play from anywhere, and continue to play until it either runs out of battery life or the last file, very nice for driving.

one thing i did not like about the O2 is the fact that in usb data mode you have to choose between internal or SD card access, Does the X2 allow both simultanously ?

Navi Johal

June 17, 2013, 1:37 am

This rating neglects one of the main selling points of the device. The MicroSD Card slot that allows you to add up to 128GB more memory. That's KIND OF important. Just saying.

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