Cowon Q5W 40GB Portable Multimedia Player Review - Cowon iAudio Q5W Review


On the bottom edge of the Q5W is a proprietary connector which allows you to hook up the player to your TV via composite and, more impressively, S/PDIF audio (coaxial) plus component video. There’s no recording facility as there is on the A3, but you do get a small coin cell-operated remote control, turning the Q5W into a reasonably competent home video playback device that you can operate from your sofa.

Once again, however, some of this functionality turns out to be a mixed blessing. The device’s main touchscreen interface is simply overlaid on top of Windows CE and it’s a marriage that makes the Q5W feel unfinished and old-fashioned – not something you want when you’ve just spent 400 big ones. Whenever you drop out of the Cowon interface, for example, you have to deliberately double-click an icon on the desktop to get it back. Web browsing on the Q5W is similarly dissatisfying: many websites simply don’t look right – and though that’s nothing new to Windows-based mobile devices, it’s clearly no iPhone.

The touchscreen interface, once fired up, works well, with the main controls accessible via a row of control ‘wings’ that fall conveniently under your thumbs on either side of the screen. You can opt to control things entirely from these context-aware controls, or you can dive into the main screen and change things directly – you’ll need the stylus here as the buttons are small and fiddly, but the level of control on offer is quite impressive. Dynamic playlists are constructed quickly and easily, and there’s a host of settings at your fingertips.

But again things are undermined. For instance, the Q5W doesn’t give you the option to display songs and tracks using tagged information – a quite bizarre ‘feature’ that forces you to navigate by folder in order to find the tracks and movie files you’re after. It’s hardly ideal. It commits random acts of weirdness, on one occasion almost deafening me with a momentary volume increase as I fiddled with the player’s Mach3Bass setting. And it isn’t exactly sprightly either, with delays occurring when skipping between folders and different screens.

There always seems to be a ”but…” with this Q5W, and the list doesn’t end with the OS. Another focuses on file formats. Though the player is purportedly compatible with a huge list of video files, including DivX and MPEG-2 files, it’s far from a drag, drop and watch experience. I tried to get it to play a selection of native .divx and .vob files and they simply wouldn’t work until I’d converted them with the bundled Cowon Media Center application. This does make the process simple with predefined device profiles for the Q5W, but it’s still a pain, and all the more disappointing considering that the same company’s (much cheaper) A3 PMP will play both file types natively. It also isn’t compatible with H.264.

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