Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Cowon iAudio V5 portable media player
Despite a distinct trend of multimedia phones taking over, Cowon seems to be focussed on pushing new PMP and MP3 players into the market
- Excellent sound, very good HD video playback, good format support, great battery life
- Uninspiring interface, no Wi-Fi, better OS and more app support would make it better
The Cowon V5 (32GB version) costs $459 which is a bit steep when you can get a 64GB Apple iPod Touch with Wi-Fi for $549. The V5 for is those dedicated users who need a portable media player that provides superior audio/video playback and good connectivity options (SPDIF and HDMI). But for the rest, get the iPod Touch.
Price$ 459.00 (AUD)
The Cowon iAudio V5 is the latest premium PMP from Cowon that offers excellent audio and video playback. The wide range of file support and its miniHDMI plus SPDIF stereo are the killer features that make the Cowon V5 a great buy for audiophiles.
Despite a distinct trend of multimedia phones taking over, Cowon seems to be focussed on pushing new PMP and MP3 players into the market. The Cowon V5 32GB is their latest in the premium PMP segment, and comes with hefty features and a large touchscreen. Let’s see how it stacks up against the competition where the trend is veering towards app support and online capabilities.
Boasting a 4.8-inch WVGA (800x480) resistive touchscreen that supports 16 million colours, the Cowon V5 uses Windows CE 6.0 as its OS and runs Cowon’s own interface. The PMP is powered by a Pentium III 500MHz processor and has an internal memory of 32GB. It is available in 8GB (White colour)/16GB (Black colour)/32GB (White & Black colour). For our review, we put the 32GB (White colour) through its paces. Should you require more space, the Cowon V5 also has an SD-card expansion slot.
The most touted feature of the Cowon V5 is its 720p HD video playback capability and its miniHDMI port, which lets you play and watch HD content on it or on a HDTV. It also has SPDIF-out for connecting the device to another DAC ( Digital to Analogue Converter) an attractive feature for audiophiles that lets them use their own DAC and amplifier for desired sound output.
Further, the Cowon V5 supports HD video playback. Being the flagship model from Cowon, the V5 plays a wide range of file formats. It plays AVI/WMV/ASF/MP4/MKV/MPEG video files, WAV/MP3/OGG/APE/MP/WMA/FLAC Audio files and JPEG/BMP/PNG/TIF pictures files. It also has a text-reader and Windows CE games like Solitaire and Freecell.
There is a voice recorder, FM radio, built-in speaker, Jet Effect 3.0 technology, BBE+ sound enhancement and 5 Band EQ. Flash contents support also means it will let you play flash games. The lack of WiFi connectivity is a bit of a downer and may prove to be a deal-breaker. The rated battery life is a whopping 45 hours.
Cowon V5: Design
Cowon V5 is a premium PMP and it is not the slimmest and sleekest PMP owing to its large screen. The body measures 128x82x15.7mm which is not as thick and bulky as the previous Cowon PMP Q5h and the body weighs 197g with battery. However, it is still portable and will still fit in your jeans pocket.
Clad in refreshing white plastic, the front of the Cowon V5 is mainly occupied by the 4.8-inch touchscreen. The player has just a few buttons on the side – a power/hold switch, a mic jack and blinking LED are on the top, while volume rocker is on the side. The left side is the most crowded – it has 3.5mm headphones jack, a flap cover that has a memory card slot, a proprietary port for a data cable, a TV-out hidden underneath, and a DC Adaptor-In for charging. A proprietary port instead of standard port like micro/miniUSB is a bit of disappointment as there would be no way to connect the device if you misplace the cable. Rounding it off, is a lanyard hole at the bottom corner.
Cowon V5: Interface
With an underlying Windows CE OS, the UI of the Cowon V5 is clean-looking and filled with icons that look like clipart. Of the 27 icons filling up the interface, only five are active – Media, Utility, Office, Game and Settings.
Tapping these active icons gives a pop-up window with further options. Once again, the interface design is not the sleekest but will get the job done. Media playback controls are well laid out, and adding tracks to your favourite list and scrolling through playlist is done easily.
However, browsing through the list of folders is a bit tedious and this also depends a lot on how you load the songs on the device. Folder play support is one nice option and it lets us load all the songs in the playlist including the subfolder contents.
Scrolling through the list of songs was a bit sluggish and hampered our experience. The touchscreen is responsive and there were only a few instances when touch was not registered. Overall, the experience is not great but acceptable. There is nothing really that pose a problem but changing the OS with more polished interface will surely enhance the overall experience and device functionality. Employing the Android OS will do the trick for Cowon.
Cowon V5: Video Playback
The Cowon V5 excels in video playback. We loaded up an animated short film from Pixar (DivX), a Blu-ray ripped 720p Transformer 2 (mkv). The Cowon V5 did an excellent job handling these videos. It did not stutter a bit while loading up videos and scanning through the clips. For the video quality, the screen shows excellent sharpness and detail. Videos look vivid and colourful – the black level was great and so were the rest of the colours which were well-saturated and vivid. Fast moving scenes were rendered smoothly without any trailing.
The viewing angle is also superior and at least three people can enjoy the clips without any colour shift. The glossy screen is a bit of a distraction though. The subtitle (.srt) support option is also a nice feature while watching foreign movies. Video sound was great via the headphones as well. Cowon did not send the HDMI cable so we could not test the video–out option.
The onboard speaker sounded fine in a quiet environment, but it does not have enough power for an enriching entertainment experience.
Cowon V5: Audio Playback
There is no doubt that the Cowon V5 offers terrific sound as with most Cowon products we've tested. The plethora of sound enhancements available with multiple file format support made this Cowon V5 a viable choice for audiophiles as well. We loaded up FLAC and APE files which consisted various genres of music. The Cowon sounded with rich mids and warm bass with very fine highs. The timing is great and on the whole the Cowon V5 delivered crispy mids, punchy bass and sharp highs.
The overall performance of the Cowon V5 for the masses may not be that attractive as it missed out some essential features that today’s PMPs have like a dedicated App store despite Flash Content support and Wi-Fi connectivity. And the lacklustre UI is also a bummer. The battery lasted us for 10 hours of video playback which is good.
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