Cowon A2 30GB Portable Multimedia Player - Cowon A2



Impressively, you should be able to get around 10 hours of continuous video playback out of the A2, which is another improvement on most of the opposition. Only the iPod Classic can boast this sort of video battery life, and it has a much smaller screen.

Of course, with the A2 you also get all the usual accoutrements that we’ve come to expect from Cowon over the years: line-in recording of audio and video, loud and clear built-in speakers and a host of setup options and extras, including lyrics display, pitch correction and the ability to schedule recordings, so you could use it to record direct from your digital TV or set-top box if you wanted to.

What it doesn’t have is the best screen quality in the world. The 4in screen’s resolution isn’t as high as the Archos 605’s, at 480 x 272, and movies aren’t as crisp or clear on it either. The principal culprit here is the glossy screen protection, which catches reflections like a mirror, but it’s also not as bright and contrast isn’t as good.

The A2 can’t boast any kind of touch sensitivity either, a feature which is becoming increasingly popular on digital media players at the moment. And though the A2 isn’t the worst Korean player I’ve come across in terms of usability, it’s nowhere near as nice to use as the Archos 605, iPod Touch, or the iPod Classic for that matter. Navigation with a mini-joystick isn’t exactly swift when it comes to long lists of albums or folders and the way three of the four main control buttons change function contextually isn’t the easiest thing to get used to. Finally, there’s no kind of wireless support with the A2.

Where the A2 can boast good performance is in terms of its audio performance. Cowon players are usually pretty good here, and the A2 is no different, with a smooth, powerful output that matches most of the competition. The Creative Zen Vision W is perhaps a little punchier, while the Trekstor Vibez manages a more atmospheric and dynamic output, but it’s on a par with Apple’s iPod products. The ability to play OGG, FLAC and Musepack files, however, sets it above the iPods and the Archos 605 too, which only has MP3 and WMA support out of the box.