(Warning: If you’re not immune to ear-hemorrhage-inducing pop music, you better turn down the volume on your speakers/headphones before starting the video.)
The Cowon J3 is far from being abandoned by the user interface modding community (and the S9 and X7 benefit from being compatible). Well known Korean UCI designer Asurada presents a teaser video of his newest creation, ASUCI v2.
Using 45 degree tilted interface elements would usually be just a gimmick, but Asurada obviously put a lot of thought into the design and usability of his theme. Next to ergonomic left-handed usage I especially like the increased length of the slider bar, allowing for more precise scrolling in a track. It seems to hit a quite sweet middle ground between a portrait- and a landscape-oriented interface.
Martin and I have been a bit disappointed with our O2’s (check out his O2 review). We have no complaints about the hardware and the sound quality is top notch as always. Cowon has made some minor fixes and improvements with Codec handling in recent firmware updates, but our major gripe is the UI. Equating it to something out of Windows 3.1, we were a bit puzzled as to why Cowon would take a few steps back when they already have something very successful to build upon- the D2.
Putting the D2 UI on the O2 would be a huge improvement and cure our main gripe. How could you argue with an oversized D2 with HD codec support? I have been trading a few emails with one of the O2 firmware programmers and he seems to think it is a good idea and has passed it on to R&D- so this may indeed become a reality.
In the spirit of product development and improvement, Martin has mocked up what the O2 would look like with the D2 interface after the jump.
With every new player on the market there are a lot of hardware changes and new features to tempt the users. The same can not be said about user interfaces, as these are often half done and doesn’t work as well as they should have. For some this is a minor annoyance, while others rely on the player to be user friendly and easy to control in different situations.
If you have a Nokia Internet Tablet, that problem has been a thing of the past for a while now. A development project called Canola done by several Brazilian tablet users has risen up from the sea of media players for the platform and provided it with perhaps the best interface I have seen on any device. Hit the jump for the full story on how the Indt development team have done what many PMP manufactures have more or less failed to do for years.
Cover Flow is a nice looking interface, but it is eye candy far from a practical and useful interface. The biggest problem with Cover Flow is that the user can only view the currently selected album, the one before, and the one after (and only a fraction of the latter two). The reason why this is not useful has to do with the way we mentally process ordered lists.
Typically we view lists in words made up by letters- since the alphabet is standard and consistent, we are used to making sense of where a “G” falls in reference to the rest of the items in the list. It is an automatic mental process developed by our mastery of the alphabet and language. By contrast, Cover Flow forces us to constantly relearn our mental processes of ordering visual cues in the form of album covers. While you could argue that it is possible to learn the order of album art covers, it would take time and would be difficult since the list is dynamic.
We are all obsessed with album art and love visual interfaces, but a different approach needs to be taken in order to circumvent our natural understanding of language and ordered lists.
The Clip+ has a fantastic little form factor; somewhat cheap in build quality but very rugged. The interface is simple and relatively straightforward. The features on the Clip are more or less average, however it supports the alternative Rockbox firmware which provides tons of additional options (gapless playback, Replaygain, playlists, Last.fm scrobbling, etc). Read the full review or go ahead and buy it.
The J3 is a fantastic PMP with a very nice AMOLED screen and tons of features. It sports Cowon's trademark BBE sound enhancements, and offers a customizable user interface with strong support by our user community. You can usually find it at Amazon for the best price - and don't forget to check out our review.
Microsoft Zune HD
Sure, many of us are not big fans of the walled garden, but there are a lot of great things going on with the Zune: sturdy hardware, ultra easy to use user interface, and a media player that is worthy of Editor’s Choice. You can check out our Zune HD review or stop by our Zune forums for the latest info and gossip.
Phonak Audéo PFE
Phonak Audéo PFE offer outstanding clarity and precision; natural, dynamic mids and treble, and decent bass for a single armature in-ear phone. They handle dense, complex music very well. The PFE work well with most acoustic and some electronic music genres, but bassheads might have to look at other alternatives. They're great for sports as well, since they fit very securely. Check out our review.
The Hippo VB (Variable Bass) offers a serious subwoofer for on the go, right in your head. They don’t just deliver generous quantities of punchy, textured bass, but good audio quality over the whole frequency range with decent clarity and exceptional soundstage. Exchangeable bass ports let you customize their sound to your liking. Read our in-depth Hippo VB review.
Soundmagic E10 / E30
The Soundmagic E10 and E30 are basically right in the middle between the Phonak PFE and Hippo VB - not too analytical sounding, not too bass heavy. The E10 provide a bit more bass, the E30 a bit more clarity. Both come with a very fair price tag considering the sound quality they deliver - a great choice for the audio aficionado on a budget. Read our E10 and E30 reviews for more info.