Top critical review
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An excellent music player, but mediocre in other areas
on May 27, 2011
I've owned a Cowon D2 and an S9 in the past, so I know what to expect from them SQ wise. I've owned a D3 for a month now, and the SQ does NOT disappoint - I would argue that this is the best sounding portable player I have ever owned.
In my case, I use it with a pair of HD 600's and a MiniBox E+ headphone amp. Combine that with some cleaned up vinyl rips at 24/48 (their stock player supports that) or some well mastered CD rips to FLAC, and I am in sonic heaven. I can even use the Android port of Rockbox if I want support for 24/96. So, as a music player, I love the device.
However, the love ends there. For most other things, this device needs some work and some of them might not be fixable.
- Telechips CPU. This CPU is already out-dated and it's probably the main reason why the device is still stuck on Android 2.1. A 2.2 update might be possible eventually, but most likely we'll never see any update past that. And a Telechips CPU means no Adobe Flash support.
- 256 RAM, with very little left over for apps. At most I usually have ~50MB left over for apps. That's fine for music playback, but if you plan to do anything else you had best install a Task Manager app to kill all the extra stuff running in the background.
- Limited accessories. This comes with the territory with Cowon products, unfortunately. You definitely want a case if you plan to carry this thing around, and probably a screen protector as well. The Cowon case is nice but will set you back another $30. At $330 for the device itself, they should have probably thrown in the case for free, imo.
- No Android Market, unless you want to hack it. And, the device recovery area is locked down, so it's difficult to mod - you can root it, at least.
- Battery life and boot up time. ~60 seconds to boot up, which is a little slow even for an Android device. And the battery life is not the usual 40+ hours we've come to expect from Cowon. Even with Wifi off, I seem to run out of battery a lot faster with this thing. I really miss good battery life.
- (As of this writing). Music sometimes freezes for a second. I've had this happen on occasion, and others have reported the same thing. Sounds like a bug that Cowon needs to address. Also, I believe that there's no gapless FLAC support for the stock app, although Rockbox has it.
- Cost. Yes, it's a definite factor - at $330+, it's a very expensive PMP. I'm assuming that the capacitive OLED screen is part of the reason, but it's still very hard to swallow when comparing it to a 32GB iPod Touch that's $50 less. Imo, this device should be ~$275 max.
I haven't really used the video playback on this, as it wasn't why I bought it. But with its OLED screen and support for containers like MKV, it seems to be an improvement over my S9. Keep in mind that AVI/MP4/MKV's are just containers and that the real concern is what audio/video codec support the device has. One thing Telechips is known for is good video playback support.
So, to summarize -- if you want an excellent sounding music player with 24/48 support and some extra bells and whistles like Android app support and decent video playback, this might fit the bill. But remember its limitations -- some of which might be fixable with software updates, and some of which might not.
6/16/2011 EDIT: Cowon has released a Korean language beta which updates the base OS to Gingerbread (Android 2.3). I've been using this beta and the device does seem to perform faster than before. Hopefully an English release will be forthcoming, soon. The 2.3 update is definitely a step in the right direction, for the D3. My only concern at the moment is that 48Khz FLAC / Vorbis files seem to have some SQ issues, but I've reported that to them and hopefully it will get corrected before it gets released.
7/1/2011 EDIT: Their Korean Gingerbread firmware has now been released. I'm actually using Rockbox on it (third party app) to get better 24/48 and 24/96 support (less fuzziness in the highs), and gapless. So far it's working great - no freeze-ups in the last 24 hours. Battery life may be slightly improved as well as sleep, and an annoying "delay" bug with JetEffects has been corrected. Lots of little improvements that is now making my purchase easier to swallow, now. 24/96 FLAC is confirmed working on their stock app in this update, btw. Overall performance is better, but of course it's still no speed demon, especially with games.
I assume that a North American update will be coming soon, but the Korean one is fine for my purposes for now.