Cowon S9 review

Price when reviewed

When it comes to portable media players, there’s one manufacturer every other aims for – Apple. Its players continue to set the standard for ease of use, design and sheer desirability, but despite banging on the door repeatedly, most haven’t managed to break it down.

Cowon S9 review

Cowon’s S9 is the latest to try, and it makes a good first impression. It’s as desirable as a portable media player is likely to get, with sleek, curvy lines and a super-sensitive capacitive touchscreen, just like the iPod touch. It boasts other iPod-like trinkets too, such as an accelerometer to flip the screen orientation automatically when rotated in the hand.

It’s not quite as beautifully made as most Apple devices – it feels much lighter and more plasticky – and it isn’t as minimal either, adorned with several rocker buttons and switches on its top and bottom edges. But it does still manage to look and feel extremely luxurious.

It edges ahead of the touch thanks to its screen. Almost matching the iPod touch for detail, the 480 x 272 resolution is impressive enough on a screen that measures just 3.3 from corner to corner. But it’s the technology, not the number of pixels, that catches the eye. Instead of standard TFT the S9 uses an OLED panel, where each pixel has its own light source. The result is lower power consumption than a typical TFT screen, nigh on perfect contrast and brighter, more colourful images.

It’s truly stunning to behold. You’ll soon forget its compact dimensions as you watch your favourite TV programmes and movies and you get plenty of time to enjoy it as well, with the battery rated at 55 hours for audio and 11 hours for video playback.

Cowon has not neglected the audio side of things, either. With lossless or high bitrate audio files the S9 sounds just wonderful, with a balanced, rounded sound – firm and punchy at the bottom end, crisp and clean at the top and rich and open in the mid-range. It’s simply outstanding.

And it’s not short on features either. On top of comprehensive audio and video file support, the S9 boasts Bluetooth, an FM radio tuner, a built-in microphone, line-in recording. The only thing missing is Wi-Fi support.

The S9’s Achilles heel is its usability. Though it looks pretty, the user interface is fiddly, with icons requiring a precise tap to activate, while navigating back and forth can be confusing. And we don’t like the proprietary USB connection either.

These negatives, however, aren’t big enough to prevent us from recommending this fantastic player. It looks good, is packed with features and boasts quite simply the best screen we’ve ever seen on a portable device. If you don’t want or need the iPod touch’s Wi-Fi, web browsing or App Store features, it’s a no brainer – just go out and get one.

Basic specifications

Capacity 8GB
Screen size 3.3in

Battery life

Audio battery life 55hrs
Video battery life 11hrs

Other features

Data connector type Proprietary
Screen size 3.3in
Resolution 480 x 272
Wired remote? no


Dimensions 57 x 106 x 13mm (WDH)
Weight 70g

Audio codec support

MP3 support yes
WMA support yes
AAC support no
OGG support yes
FLAC support yes
ATRAC support no
WAV support yes
ASF support no
AIFF support no

Video codec support

DivX support no
XviD support no
WMV support yes
AVI support yes

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