Cowon iAudio U3 Review - Almost Perfect
Mar 6, 2006 at 7:04 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 17

Brohken

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I received my U3 in the mail from ZipZoomFly.com about 5 days ago ($200 + free 2nd day air, can't beat that) and I thought I would write a short opinion of what I think so far. My firmware version is 1.1. I have yet to upgrade to the most current one which is 1.13.

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The SQ and audio playback is gorgeous; powerful and undistorted. I tried the U3 with my Grado S60's and my Shure E3's headphones. I never got to full volume on either because it would have probably blown my eardrums out. The equalizer and the other features are all pretty cool, but the equalizer is pretty much all you need. The '3D' sound option sort of works I guess and is a welcome addition as is all the other stuff like BBE, etc. It flawlessly played all the files I threw at it- OGG, FLAC, and MP3s.

Storage space on the U3 is a very decent 2 gig's. I know there are lots of people who need 60gigs to hold all their music, but I'm not one of those people. I don't mind spending a few minutes each week putting some new stuff on my player. After all it is flash and thats the price you pay when your using flash memory. Regardless I find 2gigs plenty. Right now I have 3 movies on my player and about 5 albums in MP3 format with room to spare.

The build quality I have no problems with as of now. Now of course I can't be 100% fair because I've been babying the U3 but it feels pretty solid. I have heard some negative comments on the USB cover from reviews, but actually I found it to be secure and didn't worry me in the least bit. Buttons all give a nice click. The D-Pad is very comfortable to use too. The molded plastic gives the player a nice solid feel and it has good weight to it. Of course I wish they carved it out of a solid block of titanium, but it is very nice as it stands now.
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The U3's menu system is simple to use. Again, I have heard negatives about it being unintuitive and difficult to use. But I guess those reviewers are Mac users because I found it quite simple and straightforward. Everything is easily accessible and you can even set 2 shortcuts for yourself. Again my firmware version is 1.1.

Aesthetics are great. It could be a little thinner I guess but the design is pretty good. I like the back of the device especially. Nothing else to really say.

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Video playback is probably the most scrutinized feature on this player and I can see why. The screen is small so it makes movies difficult to watch right? Well here's my thought on this. There are no other flash players that can even play video files so I view the video playback as more of an extra than an actual feature. But when I converted "Space Oddyssey: 2001" and started watching it on the U3 I was actually pretty pleased, and after a 30 minute train ride watching the movie my eyes weren't in pain or even a little blurry. I really did enjoy the movie and am very glad Cowon added this feature. I wish that the screen was bigger of course, but with a player this small I can understand the restrictions they faced. The main issue I have is that the Cowon requires video to be converted to MPEG4 and it would be really nice to just transfer any file I want over and have the U3 be able to play it. DivX, Xvid, Ogm, and MKV's especially. I don't know why they can't do this because from a software point of view it shouldn't be that hard. Maybe it's a licensing issue? I don't know but multiple format support is definately a neccessity with video as much as it is with audio.

Speaking of video, I guess the next thing I should mention is the screen on the U3. Cowon's claim is 260,000 Colors TFT-LCD, Resolution 160x128 and I can tell you that without the player's screen is marvelous. Very bright, and very crisp screen. Even the video displays very well on it considering the size. Once again I wish the screen was bigger but they couldn't really fit it anywhere.

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Software from Cowon is pretty great actually. The U3 works fine without any software as a plug and play device for Windows XP if you prefer to just drag and drop. However Cowon's makes the first useful piece of software I have received with any hardware I have purchased. Though I doubt Cowon's player, JetAudio, will replace foobar2k (another PC media player) I really didn't mind using it at all. It is nicely designed and has a ton of features. Converting video files to the U3 is a snap and all the extra sound settings and alarm function make this a really great standalone player. Definately can replace your Winamp. The added bonus of their streaming web software, JetCast, is fantastic. I've never seen an easier way to stream your audio files across the web. Link your friends to http://yourIP#:9000 and you're set. I had a stream up and running 2 minutes after I opened the program for the first time.

Battery life is claimed to be 20 hours on the U3 by Cowon. I am a nerd and so after the first charge I always leave a player on for the maximum time. I do this for 2 reasons. Firstly, a good discharge is always good for a player and can extend battery life in the future. And secondly its to test the manufacturer's claim. Well obviously battery life is determined by many things such as temperature, how many times you turn it on/off, if you use the FM radio, and if you use the video function. My test was basically turning the player on and leaving the volume at 50% with a .mp3 file in repeat mode. The player stayed on for 22 hours and 18 minutes exactly. Fantastic.

Most of the player's negatives lay with it's accessories, or lack thereof. Although I think it was worth the money, I still think that it is quite expensive and that with the price should have came a few very basic extras. The most important would be a case. Although I think the U3 is durable, it isn' made out of brushed stainless steel. It's made out of plastic, which as we all know scratches. A simple case would have been nice. Next I don't like that you need to charge the U3 via USB. There is an AC/DC charger but it is an optional accessory.

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My overall score for the player is [size=medium]9.75[/size]. I subtracted .25 for lack of accessories and the lack of more video support. Both which I don't feel are huge negatives, especially since JetAudio converts files effortlessly.
 
Mar 6, 2006 at 10:04 PM Post #3 of 17

Kam3

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Good review. you are pretty much spot on with my experience using my U3. Ive had mine since about november last year, and with thorough usage the battery life is truly great. it's especially obvious when i can carry it to work and use it for at least three days extended playtimes without charging, while my Rockboxed H320 barely lasted the day through today. also the build quality is fine, i dont see the USB flap breaking anytime soon as long as you take care of it. just a couple things though, have you tried the wallpaper option yet, or browsing pictures while listening to music. also there are alot of other flash players that play video, like the iOps players, and the Mpio One, they probably don't look as good though, they don't have as good a screen as the U3.
 
Mar 7, 2006 at 12:27 AM Post #5 of 17

The_Duke_Of_Eli

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I think it's neat that we see the video coming to our flash players as a little extra bonus. But come on; 160x128? Sure it may be a high dot pitch on a 1.8" widescreen but that's a little ridiculous. I'm sure it looks kinda funny too. Sure it's an amazing feature and the size is right but if you're going to be watching movies on it, I think the upgrade to something Creative/iRIver or *gasp* Ipod would be well worth it, although the size and cost do suck. Enjoy your player!
 
Mar 8, 2006 at 12:13 AM Post #9 of 17

Falqon

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Quote:

Originally Posted by The_Duke_Of_Eli
I think the upgrade to something Creative/iRIver or *gasp* Ipod would be well worth it, although the size and cost do suck. Enjoy your player!


If the quality goes down in an "upgrade", you have to ask yourself: is it really an upgrade? Seriously, have you ever heard one?
 
Mar 8, 2006 at 12:15 AM Post #10 of 17

The_Duke_Of_Eli

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Falqon
If the quality goes down in an "upgrade", you have to ask yourself: is it really an upgrade? Seriously, have you ever heard one?


What do you mean? I'm saying that the upgrade to a larger HDD player is worth it for video. What do you mean?
 
Mar 8, 2006 at 3:02 AM Post #12 of 17

Falqon

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Quote:

Originally Posted by The_Duke_Of_Eli
What do you mean? I'm saying that the upgrade to a larger HDD player is worth it for video. What do you mean?


I'm saying first you insult the small screen size, and then for some wierd reason you want more space. You don't really need a lot of space for tiny videos. Second, have you actually listened to a iAudio product? There's more to a player than more storage.
 
Mar 11, 2006 at 4:53 AM Post #13 of 17

Brohken

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Quote:

Originally Posted by HadenGra7
How long does it take to convert, say, a feature-length film?


depends I guess... I had a 1.2Gig xVid of a 2 hour movie. Conversion took 30 minutes. You cans et the priority to low and that will take about 45 minutes, but you can use your computer while the conversion takes places
 

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