Cowon Z2 review

A great music player with good sound and flexible storage Tested at £200

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

A great music player with good sound and flexible storage


  • +

    Great sound

  • +

    good battery life

  • +

    16GB storage plus an SD card for expansion


  • -

    Screen is a little dull

  • -

    touch-screen interface could be better

  • -

    a little expensive

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The ‘MP3 player’ hasn’t exactly gone from hero to zero in the past few years, but the market for portable media players has certainly been hit by phones and tablets.

Cowon, however, has a loyal fan base hooked on its superior-sounding portables and prepared to make do without the frills and features of Apple rivals.

The Z2 is Cowon’s attempt to meet their fans half-way. Using the Android platform, it offers web browsing, access to apps, a new touchscreen interface, Bluetooth streaming and, it hopes, top-notch sound.

In the hand, while it feels solid and well-built, it’s noticeably chunkier than rivals. The big screen is welcome but it’s not as bright or sharp as others around, which makes video performance pretty average.

Cowon Z2

Cowon Z2: Web browsing, but lacks Google PlayUsing the Android 2.3 interface you do get web browsing but you don’t get access to the full range of Google Play apps. Similarly, while the 3.7in touchscreen is decent enough, it’s no match for the speed and accuracy of the latest phones and tablets.

Loading on music is a simple drag-and-drop affair on a PC. It’s not so Mac-friendly, but there are workarounds. You have 16GB storage (there’s a 32Gb model for £50 more) plus an SD card slot for expansion, too.

There’s good file support, with AAC, FLAC, MP3 and WAV available, and battery life, at around 22 hours, is solid.

Cowon Z2: Sound quality
And the Cowon Z2 does sound great. The tonal balance is spot on, sounding crisp and clear, but not bright at high volume. There’s good detail to voices, decent dynamics and bass notes are solid but not overpowering. It’s a comfortable, enjoyable listen.

For usability, apps and other extras, you can do better, but if all you want is a music player, then this will do a fine job.

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

Read more about how we test