We won’t damn the Cowon Z2 too much for its so-so movie chops though as we can’t imagine video playback will be its primary attraction for many and Cowon has gone out of its way to ensure the Z2 accepts a wide range of codecs including DivX, Xvid, H.264, WMV 9/8/7, MPEG1 and MKV. Similarly audiophiles can happily use MP3/2/1, WMA, OGG, WAV, ASF, FLAC, APE and M4A.
As for battery life, Cowon quotes up to nine hours for video and up to 22 hours for audio. We found these to be accurate (depending on what else you are doing with the phone at the same time), but this isn’t a great claim to fame as both figures – particularly audio – are below industry averages where 10 hours video and 40 hours audio have fast become standard.
All of which brings us to the question of value. Cowon has dared to break some stereotypes in embracing Android, but it hasn’t decided to cut its famously high RRPs as well. The result is a £219 16GB edition and £259 32GB edition, making the entry point high and the more capacious device £10 more expensive than a 32GB iPod touch.
The trouble for Cowon is while the Z2 surpasses the touch in sound quality and supports more codecs it loses every other battle: design, build quality, screen quality, user interface, app support, battery life – and the touch has front (VGA) and rear (720p) cameras. A similar argument can be made for the all-in-one nature of subsidised smartphones, but for those looking for a dedicated device this is irrelevant.
So sadly we reach a somewhat familiar conclusion: despite all the changes, Cowon devices are still too expensive and ugly… but they continue to sound brilliant.
With the Z2 Cowon has dared to be different. It has embraced Android to add more functionality and attempted to offer a powerful alternative to the iPod touch. For the true audiophile this is a triumph, the Z2 sounds fantastic with superior audio processing, wide codec support, a responsive UI and expandable storage. The trouble is the design remains clunky, the AMOLED screen is dull, the battery life below average, it is expensive and you’re restricted to Android 2.3.5. Still it remains a credible alternative which excels at its primary function and that is a trait sadly all too rare.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 9