Cowon J3 review

25 May 2010

A fabulous portable media player that improves on its predecessor in most areas. It's pricey, though

Cowon J3
Price when reviewed: 
169(£169 inc VAT)
5

The Cowon S9 blew us away when we first came across it at the beginning of 2009. It was so good we voted it our favourite MP3 player, and it has remained on our A List ever since. Now its successor has been launched - the Cowon J3 - aiming to perfect an already tasty recipe.

There are a few key differences between the two devices. Aside from the fact that the J3 is a little squarer than before, the main headline is that you can now expand its storage quota. Even if you only choose to go with the 8GB version - understandable if your budget is tight - you can add to it simply by inserting a Micro SD card into the slot at the base. The best news here is that the J3 seamlessly merges files from the two sources together, thus presenting lists of albums, artist names and so on in one unified view.

Battery life is better than before, rising from the claimed 55 hours of the S9 to an amazing 64 hours of music playback with the J3. Video playback stamina remains unchanged at 11 hours, although that's still enough juice to watch Ben-Hur in its entirety three times over.

Most critically, though, Cowon has straightened out some of the S9's usability issues. The interface can be a little quirky at times, but once you've got used to it, the improved capacitive touchscreen and nippier performance will have you skipping from one view to another with iPod-like rapidity.

Cowon J3

There's more scope for customisation than before, with the traditional icon grid joined by a customisable widget desktop view and a lovely vertically scrolling text view. The latter comes complete with slick accelerometer-enabled animation - tip the player on its side and the words fall gracefully from one side to the other. Picture browsing, meanwhile, benefits from pinch to zoom multitouch support.

On top of all the improvements, the J3 retains all the features that made the S9 so great: a fantastic 3.3in 480 x 272 OLED screen, with eye-popping colours, crispness and smoothness of video playback; awesome sound quality; support for a huge variety of audio files, from MP3 to APE and FLAC; TV out (with optional cable); Bluetooth; an FM radio tuner; plus, finally, the bonus of support for Flash games with its nifty embedded Flash player.

All told, the J3 is an impressive bit of kit. It's better than the S9 - nippier, slicker and expandable - and, if you don't mind the extra size, a better all-round player than an iPod touch or nano. It's a little pricey, but we have no hesitation elevating the J3 above its predecessor on the A List.

Details

Price ex VAT £144
Price inc VAT £169
Overall rating 5
Performance 6
Features & Design 6
Value for Money 3

Basic specifications

Media player storage type Flash memory
Capacity N/A
Screen size 3.3in

Battery life

Audio battery life 64hrs
Video battery life 11hrs

Other features

USB charging? yes
Data connector type Proprietary
Screen size 3.3in
Resolution 480 x 272
Wired remote? no

Dimensions

Dimensions 56 x 10 x 106mm (WDH)
Weight 74g

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 no
AIFF support no

Video codec support

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