Cowon released the D3… no wait, this time it’s called the Z2

cowonz2 Cowon released the D3... no wait, this time its called the Z2About a year after their first foray into Android fields, Cowon released the Z2 Plenue in Korea – indirectly admitting the earlier D3 being a beta product… one that customers paid dear money for.

The Z2 is basically the exact same product as the D3 with a few hardware flaws ironed out. The Z2′s 1GHz Telechips Cortex-A8 processor isn’t quite as outdated as the D3′s 750Mhz ARM11 (although it’s still far from what’s usually built into Android devices nowadays), and it has 512MB Ram, which is quite a bit more useful than the D3′s paltry 170MB (usually 60MB free). Gone is also Cowon’s proprietary 32-pin port – the Z2 sports standard MicroUSB and MicroHDMI ports. While this is generally a great update, it might however mean the Z2 doesn’t do S/PDIF-out anymore, as found on the D3′s proprietary port.

The Z2′s screen is a 3.7″ 800 x 480 AMOLED one, just like the D3′s – let’s hope Cowon used one with a real RGB subpixel matrix this time, not an inferior Pentile one. I also hope they got hardware-accelerated video contrast ratio right this time – I’m still hoping for a fix for this glaring bug in the D3… Still available on the Z2 is one of the D3′s best features over almost all other Android devices out there – plenty of tactile buttons, making usability on the go quite a lot easier than touchscreen-only controls. Battery life on the Z2 still isn’t great – 22 hours for music, 8-9 hours for video. Let’s hope those synthetic benchmark numbers are somewhat close to real-life performance.

The Z2 still runs on Android 2.3, and the user interface looks quite similar to the D3. The big clock on the main screen says “Happytime” – must be some Korean thing. If one doesn’t like all that, it’s easily changed with custom launchers, 3rd party audio- or video apps. Other than that, it seems the Z2 just got a few more EQ and sound enhancement presets over its ancestors – mostly of the gimmicky bathroom reverb variety. There’s also a feature called “Lossless Mixer” – which we probably will find out more about soon enough.

It goes without saying that the Z2 plays every audio and video codec under the sun, and memory of course is expandable via MicroSDHC cards. Wi-Fi – check, Bluetooth – check, speaker, mic, FM radio – check. Still no camera or GPS, though.

In my opinion the Z2 certainly looks less fetching, more generic  than the D3. Cowon’s marketing drones call it “Floating Design” – by which they mean the edge of the back plate resembles a bevel or bezel. I can’t imagine that being overly nice to hold, compared to a more regular curved back plate.

Same as the J3 was an evolutionary upgrade on the older S9, the Z2 doesn’t seem ‘revolutionary’ compared to the D3. This is often a good approach – Cowon has a track record of trying to reinvent the wheel with each new player, and often failing at it. Let’s hope this time they learned from their mistakes with the D3 and deliver another killer device like the J3.

A release date for the Western world isn’t known yet, but the Z2 goes from 259000 KRW (~230 USD) for the 8GB version to 339000 KRW (~300 USD) for the 32GB version in Korea.

[Cowon Korea via iAudiophile]


Will on January 24, 2012 10:25 PM

Come help us get Cyanogenmod support. Get more details at:

gupti on January 24, 2012 11:05 PM

Seems that Cowon finally fixed what was wrong with the D3, even though it is a bit dated.

tds101 on January 25, 2012 1:01 AM

Better late than never,… At least the sq (as always on a Cowon) will kick azz!!!

audio-gal326 on January 25, 2012 2:47 AM

Just from the tone of your writing, it sounds like you don’t like Cowon very much; using words that make the D3 or Z2 seem like crap products.

Weaves on January 25, 2012 3:00 AM

Yes, but is it gapless?

digi_owl on January 25, 2012 8:03 AM

With HDMI out and microSD it reads like a lovechild between Walkman Z and Galaxy player :D

Found a interesting image over on the product page that seems to indicate that the plug cover can double as a stand. Nifty!

Soren Siim on January 25, 2012 8:56 AM


Gus on January 25, 2012 1:29 PM

I agree with the fact that the design is laking, big time. But other then that it looks to be a top notch player.

Marvin the Martian on January 25, 2012 1:42 PM

So what will the successor to the J3 be called? There is no logic to their naming conventions…lol

Martin Sägmüller on January 25, 2012 2:54 PM

Audio-gal326, I’m a big Cowon fan, I have had about a dozen of their players. I also gave their J3 Editor’s Choice, if you look at the column on the right. However, I am seriously annoyed that they released the D3 with those awful outdated components, and didn’t fix some of its biggest bugs and software flaws up until now. Now they just release the D3 again, as if nothing ever happened. Of course I am happy to see them releasing a presumably decent Android device, but I can’t help but feeling ripped off a bit.

Weaves, it will be gapless once you install Rockbox or GoneMAD for audio playback, instead of the stock music player.

Marvin, the successor to the J3 will be called X5… oh, wait.

Cowon-hatred galore on January 25, 2012 10:44 PM

Hey Martin, thanks for updating the Editor’s Choice section!

Don’t pretend Kizune’s rabid anti-Cowon propaganda isn’t affecting you a little bit, though. This is basically a J3 with a 1 GHz processor, Android and Wi-Fi. Personally I wouldn’t complain. ;)

Martin Sägmüller on January 25, 2012 11:05 PM

I am critical of Cowon because I do care about their products. Just read my reviews on here, especially the D3 and V5 one, to see what’s my beef with some of their decisions (and maybe the J3 one, for something positive). I do hope the Z2 will be a good performer, and (as I wrote above) I hope they fixed some of the glaring flaws that were found in the D3′s firmware.

And no, it’s not a J3 with Android, it’s a D3 with less broken components. ;)

Al luna on January 26, 2012 6:17 PM

I look at my V5 and wonder at what it could have been. A no nonsense UI. BBE audio for video. Would have been a classic.

Weaves on January 27, 2012 3:22 AM


It may be gapless with a new app, but then I hope they fixed (or will fix on the D3) the volume limiting bug outside of the Cowon Music player.

CMD on January 31, 2012 3:32 PM

@martin Well Rockbox hasn’t even got an APK yet, so not an option for most average users

T.K. The Hedgehog on February 6, 2012 8:46 AM

I was just getting desperate enough to re-purchase a J3, even though I felt it wasn’t the player for me…then Cowon shows up with Z2. Right on time!! Iv’e re-re-re-soldered my Headphone port on X5, so hopefully it’ll tie me over till the US release!

I’ve been with Cowon for nearly 10 years, this may be the Revolutionary player that we’ve been waiting for! *the D3 never happned* YES! COWON’S FIRST ANDROID PLAYER! THE Z2!! *twitches* I’m not crazy.

nick on February 10, 2012 2:14 PM

Hey Martin,

When do we expect Z2 to hit american shores ? How long after their korean launch were D3/J3 available in the US ( that should give us an Idea)?

Also would Amazon prices be more or less than the prices offered by exportprive?

Just curious as to how much I exactly will have to wait to get my hands on one of these .


Martin Sägmüller on February 11, 2012 1:36 PM

Nick, I think it should be available in the next month or so, from all I hear.

FYI on February 11, 2012 4:00 PM

I’m still waiting to buy one but it look like the Z2 is no longer on the Cowon website… Any information?

hcry4 on February 11, 2012 6:38 PM

Probably gonna get this. Looking forward to a thorough review.

Tams on February 13, 2012 11:35 PM

It’s a shame it only has 22 hours audio battery life, but I suppose that’s mainly down to android (and the higher hardware requirements for a smoother experience). Android really isn’t that efficient. Now, Maemo…

OK, back topic. I think I might just go for a J3. The difference in battery life make sit a no brainer, but this has a larger screen and better placed buttons. Oh the cruelties of life!

Martin Sägmüller on February 14, 2012 11:02 AM

The buttons on the Z2 are basically in the same location as the J3.

Darrell on February 17, 2012 11:37 PM

I just watched a video on Youtube showing this thing being used and the UI just plain flies. This just might be the player to replace my O2.

Naveen on April 9, 2012 5:39 AM

hey guys! it’s been a few months now, and i still can’t find anywhere to buy the z2 outside of korea!!?!?! does anyone have any updates on the z2? has it been released out of korea yet? and if so, where can i get it? (btw, i live in australia :P )

Matt R on April 13, 2012 2:44 AM

Okay, now that we all aware that the Z2 is not out yeasoon… question on my mind. How many bugs must they be trying to fix? Will they even fix them? Am I being sarcastic? NO

zunehdkid on May 14, 2012 12:40 AM

Oh…oh no…it’s…PENTILE!

Anna on June 4, 2012 6:31 PM

Re. Gapless playback.

Forgive me if I’m being stupid but my understanding of the Z2 is that any Android apps that you have to pay for are not available on the Z2 so how is it possible to install GoneMAD or Poweramp?

Thanks for your help.

Martin Sägmüller on June 4, 2012 8:06 PM

There are several ways to install the Google Play Store on the D3 and Z2, even an official one:

Anna on June 5, 2012 8:26 AM

Thanks Martin. I will investigate. I hope it is not too complicated as my technical knowledge only stretches so far!!

Anna on June 15, 2012 8:59 AM

Hi again,
I have another question!!

I now have a Z2. My problem is that all the music from a each artist is clumped together. The separate albums are not recognised. Have I loaded my music wrong? Is there a way of foxing this? I copied and pasted all my music into a new folder that I created on the Z2. Should I have done something diffently?
Many thanks all.


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