Product Review: Cowon O2PMP

Note: to achieve the appropriate reverent tone, read this post in the same manner as a Catholic priest holding Mass in Latin

There are many, many PMP (personal media player) devices on the market today and many are pretty decent and get the job done. Good or bad, the iPod seems to be the gold standard against which all others are compared. And to be honest, the interface is pretty easy to use one-handed while driving.

That notwithstanding, there is another device that deserves serious consideration; the Cowon O2PMP.

Cowon Systems (South Korea) was started in 1995 with a primary focus on software development. The company released their first audio player in 2000, the CW100. A key component of the Cowon PMP is the JetAudio software application. The Cowon O2PMP was first produced in. Device specifications include a 4.3″ screen, flash-based storage (8GB, 16GB, 32GB), USB 2.0, TV output, SD card slot (up to 16GB), voice recorder and several other features. The device comes preloaded with a very diverse support of audio and video codecs; FLAC, MKV, MP3 among the most common in use. Advertising claims battery life of 8 hours for video playback and 18 for audio playback.

Unfortunately Cowon O2PMP production has been discontinued. This is a tragedy… However, there are still decides to be found on the used market for under $150. When you get a device, go to the Cowon website and make sure you load the latest firmware.
I have owned two of the 32GB models. Still not sure what happened to the first unit, after flawless performance for over a year I had completely drained the battery on a long red-eye flight. I ran through all the troubleshooting steps and it has not worked since. Unit #2 has been working as I expected for about six months. I travel a bit for work and this makes the flights bearable. I watch movies, TV shows and listen to music and audiobooks. For anyone used to watching video on an iPod, the Cowon screen seems huge by comparison. Much closer to an iPhone display. Battery performance is as advertised and it easily charges completely overnight while you are sleeping. Media management is as easy as you please. Unlike Apple devices which require iTunes, the Cowon devices work with any OS (I have tested various Linux and Windows). Plug the included USB cable in to any available port and the OS recognizes the device as a removable storage device. You will quickly find folders for Music and Video, and a few others. Simply copy your media to the appropriate folder, wait for the file operation to complete and eject the device. You are ready to go. The built-in speaker is good for low noise environments, but a good set of headphones will make the experience that much better.
As stated, there is amazing codec support. If you have never used the FLAC format, it is better quality that a typical MP3, by far. As for video, AVI and MKV work flawlessly. Note: resolutions above 720p will not render well and the video and audio will almost certainly be choppy and unviewable. Another big benefit over an Apple device is that you can load media from any source. No pesky messages about your library, computer not authorized, etc.
The only issue I run into form time to time is navigating on the touch screen. While the layout is very intuitive, I occasionally have a hard time scrolling through the media lists. Certainly the pros outweigh this.

Final thoughts, the device size, battery life, storage capacity, and available playback formats make this an excellent device for the frequent traveler as well as the casual home user.

– habanero_joe

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