Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Cowon A3

The successor of the best portable media player Cowon A2, here comes Cowon A3.

The good:
-Supports .mp4 and .mkv, meaning more video podcasts and anime on the go.
-Supports H.264
-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.

The bad:
-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.

The ugly:
-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.


Anonymous said...

What is this thing? What does it do?
You need to have some introductions buddy! media player?

pika2000 said...

Well, I already said it's a portable media player. What kind of introduction do you want? Watch the video and you can see what it does, play videos.

Anonymous said...

ohhh the video...nah its not important :) haha..
how about something in your blog about ebichu? ebichu...ebichu...

AdemoS said...

Great reviews (text and video) I was thinking about getting this for EXACTLY the same purpose you used it for (anime and live action shows...though I admit I hate star trek)

Sucks about no soft-subtitles, since that was the main reason I was excited about MKV support.

My Creative Zen Vision W, with it's easier navigation and great id3 tag organization (for audio) is starting to sound better.

I admit though, the variety of file format support (XVID and OGG are my favorites) and h264 combatibility is great.

So in terms of softsubs, what do you think? Any chance of Cowon adding that via firmware? Or the player can't handle it? (Any chance a third party could hack it in?)

gaming memory card said...

Will play absolutely ANYTHING, screen is beautiful and actually displays like it does in the photograph (I'm serious, I got confused when I first turned this on), tremendous battery life, fast processor, radio, portable tv, etc.