About 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 The Z2′s 1GHz Telechips Cortex-A8 processor isn’t quite as outdated as the D3′s 750Mhz ARM11 (although it’s still far from what’s usually built into Android devices nowadays), and it has 512MB Ram, which is quite a bit more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.