The Cowon X7 offers two kinds of interface, and you can switch between them freely. The first is an iPod style menu that lays-out the main features of the player in a list – one that you don’t have to scroll through thanks to the expansive 4.3in screen. It’s simple, clean and our interface of choice.
The second is seemingly inspired by Android smartphones, offering you home screens to fill with widgets and shortcuts. As nice an idea as this may be on paper, it’s limited by the lack of an app store – at your disposal are 12 widgets, few of which justify a spot on a home screen. The clock and calendar are possible candidates for a place, but a brightness switch and snapshot widget? Well, maybe, but it’s hardly compelling stuff. It feels a little like Cowon was clutching at straws with this extra-customisable UI. If it offered other features like web connectivity, GPS or a games library, this interface would make more sense, but it doesn’t. And it doesn’t need to – this is a media player after all, not a smartphone.
This is the same set of interfaces used in the Cowon J3, but they feel a little less nimble on the X7 because it uses a resistive touchscreen rather than a capacitive model. It’s responsive enough but suffers from the traditional problem of finger-operated resistive touchscreens – accuracy. Most of the interface elements are large enough to escape from this effect, but you have to be more conscious of the way the touchscreen works – and which part of your finger actually connects with the touchscreen – than with the slicker Cowon J3.
The screen is highly reflective but viewing angles are good and the X7 comes with a handful of wallpaper images to best show it off. However, just as its body shape is living in the distant past, so is its screen resolution. Where a smartphone using this screen size would typically use a 480×800 pixel resolution, this media player is 272×480 pixels. That’s 384,000 pixels total versus 130,560 – the Cowon has around a third the number of pixels of what might be considered the new “industry standard”.
This leaves interface text looking a little blocky and images visibly pixellated, but it doesn’t spoil the media player’s surprisingly good video skills. The Cowon X7 plays DivX and Xvid files, and when watching a movie or TV episode the low-res effect is less noticeable. Well-encoded video is very watchable when the device is held 30cm or so from your face – and the 10-hour video-watching battery life makes this device worth considering as a portable video buddy, an alternative to one of Archos’s older PMPs. The viewing angles here are superior to most of Archos’s players too.