The successor of the best portable media player Cowon A2, here comes Cowon A3.
-Supports .mp4 and .mkv, meaning more video podcasts and anime on the go.
-Sharp high res screen.
-Loading videos seem quicker than the A2.
-UI seems snappier than the sluggish A2.
-It even comes with a screen protector!
-Everything good about the A2 is applicable here (UMS compliant, can view text, pictures, can delete file within the device, etc), other than some ugly things mentioned below.
-HD playback problems (see my youtube video overview). It would be amazing that a portable device like this can playback HD (720p) content perfectly. Knowing Cowon, firmware updates are expected, but maybe there are some hardware limitation involved.
-No subtitle support for Matroska (the .mkv I used in my youtube video has a hard-sub).
-No gapless playback of MP3 audio.
-Nipple/joystick control is annoying, and its reliability is questionable. (you'll see on the youtube video, I was moving back and forth between the folder tree for no reason, that's due to the stupid joystick)
-Proprietary USB jack. The mini USB jack is NOT a USB jack.
-No case included.
The PMP competitors:
-Archos. They are probably the closest competitor to Cowon in PMP. However, Archos decided to charge you extra for things like H.264 playback. WTF?
-Apple. The largest screen DAP Apple has is the Touch. It's flash based and thinner, but capabilities as a PMP is way below the A2/3. If only Apple would support divx/xvid.
-Sony. Huh? Sony? Is that food? To give Sony's credit, they put divx support on the PS3. Hopefully that will translate to their portable devices, that is if Sony is still interested in that market.
-Creative. Their Zen Vision W was quite popular, but Creative seems to be focusing on cheap flash based DAPs. The Zen? 320x240 videos won't cut it anymore.
-Microsoft. The Zune? Meh. Large but low-res screen, plus limited codec support (not much different than Apple). However, Microsoft recently put divx support on the Xbox360. Question is will they do the same for the Zune.
As a DAP, the A3 fails. Let's face it, it is designed to be PMP. As a DAP, it is big, heavy, has crappy audio battery life, folder tree only browsing, no gaples, and that dreaded joystick. The only great thing about it as a DAP is the on-screen spectrum analyzer.
As a PMP, the Cowon A3 is still king of the crop. I mean try to find a portable player that support .mkv. Heck, even the old A2 is still better than most PMPs/PMP-wannabe DAPs out there. I rate the A3 9 out of 10. -1 for HD playback problems, even though it is advertised to be able to. Hopefully Cowon can improve/fix the performance of HD content playback with firmware updates.