Cowon iAudio 9 review

7 Jan 2010

A clunky touch interface and some unintuitive menus leave this far behind the iPod nano

Price when reviewed 
99
3

Cowon's gloriously vibrant S9 player sits atop our media player A List category, and now we see its little brother, the iAudio 9. Aimed squarely at the iPod nano crowd, it comes with 4GB, 8GB or 16GB of Flash memory, a 2in 320 x 240 screen and a capacitive touch control panel beneath it that fades out of sight when not in use.

The device itself is a tad bigger than the most recent iPod nano, but at just under 9mm thick and a mere 40g it will slide unnoticed into any pocket. It comes with a set of standard 3.5mm in-ear headphones which are a little clunky but don't sound too bad – and don't leak as much noise as their Apple equivalents. There's also a proprietary USB cable included, which is how the iAudio 9 receives both its media files and its charge.

Cowon iAudio 9

Initial impressions weren't great, however. The little screen isn't great for video or images, but a bigger issue is the main menu system. A fancy diagonal icon bar spans the screen, and to scroll through it you slide your finger along the corresponding diagonal touch scale beneath. It feels awkward, and the select and back buttons don't help – for a start they're tiny, and once you enter a menu the back button doesn't return you to the main menu, but to a confusing text alternative with more options.

A dedicated M button on the right edge takes you back to the start if necessary, but it's not an intuitive way of working. It's not helped by a general lack of responsiveness in the touch controls, and some small onscreen icons are a pain. For example, rather than a visible pop-up bar like most players, the volume indicator is a tiny number that stays firmly at the top of the playback screen.

Once you've found your way around the confusing interface, the results aren't bad. The iAudio 9 will play MP3, WMA, FLAC and OGG music files, as well as AVI, WMV, ASF and XviD movies. It also has a built-in microphone with recorder, and an FM radio – although it failed to pick up several national stations from a central London location during our testing.

We're unimpressed with the Cowon iAudio 9. For £99 inc VAT for 8GB we'd expect something that at least comes close to the ease of use of the iPod nano, and with an 8GB version of that available for only £20 more we just can't see any reason to shell out for this Cowon.

Details

Price ex VAT £84
Price inc VAT £99
Overall rating 3
Performance 4
Features & Design 3
Value for Money 3

Basic specifications

Media player storage type Flash memory
Capacity 8GB
Screen size 2.0in

Other features

USB charging? yes
Data connector type Proprietary
Screen size 2.0in
Resolution 320 x 240
Wired remote? no

Dimensions

Dimensions 43 x 8.6 x 95mm (WDH)
Weight 40g

Audio codec support

MP3 support yes
WMA support yes
AAC support no
OGG support yes
FLAC support yes
ATRAC support no
WAV support yes
ASF support yes
AIFF support no

Video codec support

DivX support no
XviD support yes
H.264 support no
WMV support yes
AVI support yes
MP4 support no