Cowon announced the X9 – nicknamed “Super Player” – which would make sense as a logical upgrade/sidestep to last year’s X7. But actually it’s more of a rehash of the ancient O2 PMP, released four years ago, in 2008 (ignoring the newer V5′s existence in several aspects).
The X7 is a 80-160GB HDD player with Bluetooth capabilites, the new X9 is a flash memory player without Bluetooth, but a MicroSD slot instead. Internal capacities of the X9 go up to 32GB – same as the ancient O2. Both the X7 and X9 have embarrassingly bad screen resolutions of 480×272 at 4.3″ – same as the ancient O2. Seems Cowon had a few old resistive touch screens left over to recycle (the slightly less ancient V5 HD in comparison had a much more reasonable 800×480 resolution at 4.7″, but by today’s standards that is the extreme lower limit for comparable screen sizes as well).
Additional tactile buttons for FFWD/REW/skip might make the X9 a more desirable player for on the go than the X7, which only had a unified menu/play/pause and two volume buttons. Cowon claims a battery life of up to 110 hours for audio and 13 hours for video on the X9. If real-life usage comes close to these synthetic benchmarks, it would be quite amazing for nomads and globetrotters. Cowon’s usual plethora of supported file formats and BBE sound enhancements are of course not missing from the X9. An additional annoyance is Cowon’s use of a proprietary USB connector instead of a standard mini/microUSB port.
iAudiophile moderator Kizune posted a comparison chart of the X7′s and X9′s differences, for your perusal.
[Cowon Korea via iAudiophile]
Snooping around Cowon’s Korean website I found a new rehash of the V5 PMP, the “Smart Study” V5S. It seems this version is specifically made for the fiercely competitive high-pressure world of Korean education, loaded with lots of gimmicky study apps, dictionaries, and the like. This PMP will probably never see the light of day outside of South Korea, but the V5S’ firmware might be worth a second glance.
One of the main issues of the V5 (as described in our V5 review) is it’s tacky, counterintuitive, backwards user interface. Indirectly, Cowon seem to admit they botched the V5 interface, since the V5S comes with an UI that resembles the Android-powered D3 more than it’s hardware-identical sibling, the old V5. The V5S’ main screen is much tidier than the V5′s, with real icons that actually seem to do something, and main functions don’t seem to be hidden in subcategories as well.
How is this relevant, since the V5S is very likely to be sold in Korea only? Well, maybe the V5S firmware could be put on the V5, since both their hardwares seems to be exactly the same. If it’s not locked down in some way, it might work right away – if not, some hacker might certainly find an easy way to fix that. Of course the V5 is anything but a popular player, so community support is minimal – but who knows, it’s worth a try in any case. Unfortunately my V5 is the only Cowon that ever bricked, so I can’t try the V5S firmware on it.
Cowon V5S product page (Korean) and firmware download.
Update: Rafa got this firmware working on a regular V5. Only the main screen changed, everything else is the same – besides the additional Korean study apps. Read the installation instructions on iAudiophile.
What do you get when you pair decent quality audio/video hardware with a head-scratchingly bad user interface, backwards usability, and disregard for anything that makes sense to the average user? Well, a Cowon PMP, of course. While this was true for the Cowon O2 I reviewed a bit over a year ago, I’ve taken it upon me to go through the same pain again, this time with the Cowon V5.
Grahm already wrote a short preview article about the V5. While I agree with his evaluation that the V5 is a nice upgrade to the O2 on the surface, the mess that is hidden beneath when one tries to use the V5 on a daily basis is even worse.
Read on for the not so surprising in-depth review of this portable media player.
Simply put the Cowon V5 is a really nice upgrade to the O2. The V5’s form factor is similar to O2 but it’s a bit thinner and it feels sturdier. Not that the O2 had a bad build quality, but the V5 feels more dense and less hollow compared to the V5- plastic, buttons, and screen remain more or less identical.
However, the big news is how well it handles 720p content and its robust HDMI and component out video out. The O2 worked, but it wasn’t as smooth as the V5 and there were always issues with trying to get the screen sized right for the TV you plugged it into. The V5 is straight forward HDMI plug and play with the optional cable. This is no longer a sketchy dongle (lol), it’s a rather robust proprietary plug on the player itself, rather than micro-usb-ish plug seen on other Cowon players.