Cowon O2 Preview

o2 pr main Cowon O2 Preview

Cowon’s latest PMP, the O2, sits nicely in between the full blown A3 PMP and the popular flash based D2. Though I think this will eventually replace the Ax PMP line since Cowon is careful not to cannibalize their other products. This is the reason they did not release an X7, because the D2 would take sales from an X7.

If the O2 is indeed replacing the Ax series line up, it’s not such a bad thing. Even though the screen resolution is higher on the A3, 800×480 as opposed to the O2’s 480×272, it does have a bigger screen (O2 = 4.3” & A3 = 4.0”) and is much more portable. You can see in the photos below, the O2 is not that much bigger than the X5 or the Zune.

We will have a full abi review for your soon, but in the mean time here are some pics and initial impressions.

Build Quality: Solid and well build, but sounds a bit hollow when you tap on the back.

Screen: Its obviously weaker when you compare it to the A3 or Archos 5’s 800×480, but I feel the size gain, portability, and cost reduction is better than the higher resolution.

Touch screen: Unresponsive. Sometimes buttons look and sound like they were pressed but nothing happens. This could possibly be fixed in the future with firmware updates. Similar thing happens with the volume button- if pressed to rapidly, the buttons don’t respond.

Sound quality: As expected, very good, warm, typical Cowon. Though it does have similar problems as the D2 has at higher volumes with enhancements on, it tends to get a bit raggedy.

Video playback: This varied widely. It seems the O2 is very picky about how the video is encoded. Common XviD torrents looked a little choppy and longer files had syncing issues- though some 30fps videos looked incredible. I was able to play MVK files encoded with XviD and MP3, but I could not get a single 720p file in any format to play and 720p is advertised as supported.

My initial overall impression is that this is a PMP for the enthusiast and Cowon fan. I say this mainly because of the rocky firmware updates ahead for the O2 as seen in past Cowon products. For the enthusiasts and fans who were planning on purchasing, wait and see how the firmware progresses. $300 is a bit hard to choke down for a player with unfinished firmware and the lack of advertised 720p playback.

Update: I just upgraded to 1.11 firmware and some of the issues with the touch seem to be better. Also DivX/XviD playback is much more smooth. I’s still having troubles with video out and 720p content still does not play. I think it will be a solid PMP once firmware bugs get fixed- but that could take many months. So tune into the Cowon o2 Forum for updates. Also Martin will be doing the review soon, so if you have any questions about the O2, check out this thread.

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Skobbolop on October 30, 2008 4:34 PM

The unresponsive touchscreen makes me nervous about the S9 :( i would guess that the touchscreen technology is the same in both players?

MFG on October 30, 2008 4:56 PM

Interesting details.Touchscreen and Resolution issues are definitely major weaknesses.I guess firmwares will improve with time, as they have done with other Cowon PMPs.

Grahm on October 30, 2008 4:56 PM

@skobbolop iirc the S9 uses capacitance touch- different from the o2.

TheDarkSide on October 30, 2008 5:06 PM

This is a nice preview Grahm, thanks, wonderful as always! As for the choppiness w/the video playback, I heard that there’s an update for the O2, via iAudiophile, that take’s the FW out of the beta stage. Wonder if this may help w/the touchscreen also. Still, this looks like a pretty solid Portable Media Player (PMP) for the SERIOUS videophile!!!

Sunboom on October 30, 2008 5:07 PM

I don’t know… You’re saying that you think the larger screen kinda compensates the lower resolution, but in my opinion the amount of pixels per inch is veeery important. I’d rather have a tiny, sharp screen than a large one that isn’t.

Grahm on October 30, 2008 5:32 PM

@sunboom, yeah i see what you are saying, i guess the screen res/size will be subjective.

SawaFish on October 30, 2008 5:50 PM

Looking forward to the review :-) Grahm, can you shine some light on playlist support? I heard something vaguely of a favorites list but that doesn’t say me a lot.

Luigi Di Biaggio on October 30, 2008 6:04 PM

Grahm,Any inizial thoughts is on the tv out?Please.Also, how is playbacks of the h.264 video podcasts – this is major issue for me.Please. Thanks.

no9 on October 30, 2008 7:33 PM

Thanks for the preview Grahm. Hopefully there is a firmware release soon. Is there a file limit and is the SD card integrated?

Alex M on October 30, 2008 8:08 PM

I really wish I could justify buying this. I have a D2 for on the go(and a LITTLE video while on the go), a Clip for going portable, and an Archos 504 for watching and recording vids at home…

sprockkets on October 30, 2008 8:09 PM

On format playback capabilities, we need to know what profile was used for each codec. Although, according to Cowon, MPEG-4 ASP is supported, so it should work ok with any Xvid Encode.Btw, this is exactly how the A3 behaved with video. That has changed over time, has it not? Shame because it seems they use the same chipset.

RedSky on October 30, 2008 11:22 PM

Thanks for this, looking forward to the review. Especially wondering if the bass extends any deeper and is punchier than the D2 which was a bit recessed and dissapointing.

Grahm on October 31, 2008 10:58 AM

@LuigiI havent been able to get the video out to work. I have tried three different video out cables including the same one as the A3. I dont know if Cowon changed the pinouts (which i doubt) or its not yet implemented.Also, HD H.264 podcasts do not play either. Just tried some of the stuff from Revision3.

fraggo on October 31, 2008 11:43 AM

Can you compare the screen quality with the Archos 5? I have the Archos 605 and like the Archos 5 is seems to suffer from a far too cool color temperature, and the flesh tones are way too off. I would hope the Cowon O2 has better colors.

Ferd Burfel on November 1, 2008 12:47 PM

Grahm mentions sync problems with video. I assume he means video to audio sync. Is it just me, or is this becoming a trend with DAPs/PMPs? Is it the players or a CODEC issue?

GunSpeed on November 2, 2008 1:55 AM

I couldn’t wait for a review, So I already bought it along with a leather case *artificial* and a screen protector all for $306.48 + $44.97.I was worried about those Ebayers! The black edition was just out (32gb) and it’s “Temporarily out of stock” you’ll find them all at Ebay with extra price!I couldn’t swallow Archos, pricey and not complete in supporting unless you pay for them…etcCan’t wait for your review!

andy on November 4, 2008 3:58 PM

great work guys advanced mp3 does not have in stock yet will a3s come do in price you views

ch1ll1ng on November 5, 2008 9:22 PM

The various formats supported, it’s simplicity, a TV out(albeit not the greatest), the ability to charge via USB, and the size of the screen had me sold. Supposedly the screen is similar(in size and resolution)to a PSPs and I can watch movies on my PSP for the most part OK. I purchased an O2 today. It’ll probably be here next week. I’ll try and provide and update soon.Of course Wi-Fi and flash player capability would have been nice.

Chris on November 6, 2008 12:29 AM

Did Cowon finally implement gapless playback for those formats which support it (e.g. ogg, flac)? I’ll snatch this up fast if they did…

harry on November 6, 2008 2:36 PM

Cowon advertised the A3 as supporting 720p videos, to this day the A3 does not support 720p videos. I thuoght Cowon learned a lesson about false advertising but they didn’t. They also advertised AVC high profile support but basic profile is the best it can do. Don’t count on the firmware fixing much either, we haven’t had new firmware in 5 months. The firmware that was released didn’t fix much, in fact it removed more features than it fixed (vob support). The A3 is still a great PMP With a Beutiful display and excellent audio quality but it’s not the pmp it was advertised as. I hope the O2 turns out different but I doubt it

Alan on November 7, 2008 1:02 PM

It’s now available in the UK (with shipping to Europe and rest of the world) from comes in at £209 and the 32GB is a cheap (imho) £249.Not too shabby I think. I’ll probably end up getting the 32GB, excellent value.

Grahm on November 11, 2008 2:25 PM

Martin will be doing the review please check out this thread to ask anything you want to know about the O2!

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