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Old 01-21-2009, 10:05 AM
Sacramento's Avatar
Sacramento Sacramento is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Ireland
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Default Cowon S9 Review and Comparisons

My Review of the Cowon S9.

I wanted to give a full review, giving that I own the device, have put my music and videos on it and used it almost constantly for a few days.
Please note, the vertical/horizontal fine lines shown on the S9's screen in the featured pictures below are visible only to a camera, not to the human eye. The quality of the S9's screen is to be seen, the camera does not do it justice.

First off, the looks.
Mine is the titanium 16gb and it looks really nice, it's light. Now some people have said it is too light for it's size, I find it fine. It's all plastic (except the Corning Gorilla glass), though I like it quite a bit. The back is this curved dark brown/black matte finish which is pleasant looking. It features the reset button and the microphone hole.



The sides are also curved titanium looking finish. And if you haven't seen the front, it is an extremely attractive looking device. (this picture features the S9 with claw wallpaper UCI and anti glare screen protector)



The 3.3" screen fits flush with the rest of the body. Bottom left is the hidden USB connection, bottom right, is your ON/OFF, HOLD buttons and in between these is your headphone jack.



Top right is your skip track buttons, and top left is your dedicated volume buttons which are all very welcome in this design.



Dedicated buttons are a huge plus since you can disable touch screen controls when it's in your pocket and simply skip songs using the tactile ones without taking it out. The top middle protrusion acts as a pause/play button, very nice touch. I read a review on CNET that the reviewer complained that he would not be able to tell which buttons did which. This was a particularly ridiculous claim. I remembered after a day of use, and I can skip songs, pause/play and change volume without looking at the thing while it's in my pocket. Must apply for a job at CNET soon!

Next up, the interface.
There has been a huge amount of complaining in some reviews about the UI. I can see some of their points, but only if you’re a complete novice to the device, after that, it's very easy to navigate and I find myself flying through Artists, albums and songs in seconds flat. The double tap works just fine and takes very little time to get used to.

The look of the interface when browsing files is simple but effective, I can have no complaints, though it's not mind blowing. One of my favourite things about this PMP, is the "Now Playing" Screen. I have album art on all my songs, and such is the quality of the AMOLED screen, that they really jump out at you if you've used a high quality picture. There are many ways of skipping through tracks, all of them easy to do and very nicely planned, except the cover flow, which I have disabled (I'll come back to that). My favourite is the swipe left or right over the album art to skip songs, it works very well.
The way people are complaining about the interface gets to me a bit. The main complaint seems to come down to the fact that it doesn't mimic the Apple Touch's UI in every way. If you want to compare it to the touch, fine, but realize that the Cowon gives better sound and plays video more clearly, I have put them side by side, same video, same music, using the earphones that came with each of them. Cowon wins in that department. Those features are far more important do you not think?
All that being said, I like the Cowon UI anyway. There are plenty of user made UI’s that can be used instead of the Cowon ones, so if you don’t like the originals, then download another, or make one.


The sound and equalizers are hands down, the best of any mp3 player or PMP I've used. Now I work in a place that sells Ipods, Creatives, Samsung, Sandisk, Archos etc, you name it, we got it (except for Cowon players). I've used them all. The sound on the Cowon S9 genuinely out performs all the ones I've used in my shop. The BBE equalizer settings are especially recommended. I use the BBE Mach3Bass currently. And for those who want to know how loud it goes. I put a song onto an Ipod touch (Go with the flow by Qotsa) and the same one onto the Cowon. I could listen to it on the Touch on full volume. On the Cowon, the highest I could bear without it behind far too loud was 36 out of 40(At 33 or 34, it was the same as the Ipods max volume, but of better quality). Note that sound on any device depends on the quality of the tracks you put on it. I'm a fan of 320kbps on mp3 or wma. Or I sometimes have some FLAC too.

The video is of such a high quality. Most of my videos are Avi (Divx), so they all went straight on, no conversion needed. The video screen as the player is upright shows the video near the top, with the bit-rate and quality info and equalizer settings underneath it. Flip it on its side, and its fullscreen and widescreen. The quality must be seen to be believed, as clear as a bell. It's the framerate that impressed me so much though, no blurring. Incredibly smooth. I knew it would be good, just not that good! (pic shows the movie "The wrestler", such is the quality, you can really see what becoming a boxer did to Rourke's face.)


Synching my music from my PC was very easy, some folders I just copied straight on. Other times I just used WMP to sync it up. It didn't give me any trouble and such was my organization that all the album art came up, with no exceptions. Video was drag and drop too. I used the software that came with it. It's not bad, syncs up fine and converts automatically if necessary, though I think I'm just so used to WMP that I just wasn't too bothered with using the Cowon media centre. My music collection is very organized, so maybe this is why I didn't have the trouble other people have been having. Organize your album art and track numbers etc. before you put it on the player. I use mp3tag v2.42 for changes to tags and album art. This version of Mp3tag DOES support adding album art to FLAC.

Radio. This is something I've struggled to understand about some reviews since I got the player. I would have been forgiven in thinking that it would be useless based on them. However, I used it while travelling from Clonsilla to Maynooth (in Ireland, by no means a fantastic reception area) on the train and it scanned and stored all the stations just fine. It is clearer than my Zen Vision :M (R.I.P) and my Samsung YP-k3. So where did all the negativity come from about the radio? The interface for it is so cool, the virtual dial is so much fun it actually makes me use the radio more than I usually would.

Pictures and the rest, work as you would expect, you can view pics in full screen just like the videos and zoom in and out as you wish. The flash and utilities comes with nothing but a calculator as standard. I'm sure there will be more utilities to come. I've loaded some .SWF files myself from various places and they're very fun. Some puzzle games and bowling games work perfectly with the touch screen. Documents viewer works really nicely. You can change font size, select auto scroll, change the auto scroll speed and the background colour of your choice. Though the accelerometer has not been incorporated into this, and it would have been a very good idea to do so. However, it has been nicely done. Coverflow, I promised to get back to this, now I will. When on the "Now playing" screen in music, if you flip it on its side, (given that you have this function enabled) it will go into cover flow mode. Now it is utterly pointless in my view, and poorly done. It doesn't do Coverflow between different albums, it does it between all the songs in the album you have currently selected! I have no idea why they did this. Since the picture is just the same for all songs in an album, however it does give the song name. I disabled the accelerometer in music mode. It's just pointless. Once I disabled it though, I didn't need to worry about it.<?xml:namespace prefix = v /><v:shape id=Picture_x0020_2 style="VISIBILITY: visible; WIDTH: 12pt; HEIGHT: 12pt; mso-wrap-style: square" type="#_x0000_t75" alt="http://static.boards.ie/vbulletin/images/smilies/cool.gif" o:spid="_x0000_i1025"> <v:imagedata o:title="cool" src="file:///C:\DOCUME~1\User\LOCALS~1\Temp\msohtmlclip1\01\cli p_image002.gif"></v:imagedata></v:shape>! On top of it all, users have edited the music screen and removed Coverflow to give you a nice “now playing” screen when it flips. So the issue is really resolved.

That's about it I guess. I'll probably post this review in some other places. If you have any questions about the player, or feel I should add to this review. Let me know!

Comparison review is post #4.

-Sacramento.

Last edited by Sacramento; 04-19-2009 at 11:53 AM.
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