Skip to main content

Cowon A3 (60GB) review

First impressions of this multimedia player are underwhelming. The A3 seems a dated, plastic, lumpen figure, and it struggles, too, to sell itself as Tested at £319.00

Our Verdict

As one of the most expensive units we've tested it needed to be special; despite solid specs, it’s decidedly average

For

  • Good-sized screen
  • excellent file compatibility, including HD content
  • SD card and FM tuner

Against

  • Low battery life
  • looks and feels cheap
  • sound and vision performance is bettered elsewhere

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

As one of the most expensive units we've tested it needed to be special; despite solid specs, it’s decidedly average

Pros

  • + Good-sized screen
  • + excellent file compatibility, including HD content
  • + SD card and FM tuner

Cons

  • - Low battery life
  • - looks and feels cheap
  • - sound and vision performance is bettered elsewhere

First impressions of this multimedia player are underwhelming. The Cowon A3 seems a dated, plastic, lumpen figure, and it struggles, too, to sell itself as massively portable.

The interface is rather dowdy, while the joystick control method is erratic and fiddly. Still, we could look past at least some of these foibles if the rest of the player delivers the goods. And a read through the specs counters our gloom.

There's a 4in screen with an 800 x 480 resolution. Cowon rightly makes plenty of play on the fact the A3 can play 1280 x 720 HD video content, without the need for any form of file conversion, though of course the video is downscaled to fit the player's lower resolution screen.

File compatibility is excellent, with support for AVI, WMV, MPEG4 and ASF video files among others, while the audio line-up is equally exhaustive, offering MP3, WMA, Ogg, FLAC, WAV and Apple Lossless support.

And, if you're bored of your own tunes, there's an FM radio, and a built-in microphone for recording.

Decent execution, but not the best
So, the Cowon A3 has staged something of a recovery, but naturally the execution is crucial. And video and sound is okay, but it doesn't quite reach the heights of the top dogs in this sector.

The screen seems particularly reflective – not ideal in brighter conditions. Nevertheless, The Wire looks decent, if lacking that extra level of depth and texture that the iPod Touch can dig up.

It's a similar story with music, where Sway's Fit 4 A King sounds punchy with plenty of insight and pace, but doesn't have the dynamic reach of the better players here.

Battery life isn't great, either, only around nine hours with music, despite a healthy seven hours for video.

This Cowon is good in parts but, given its price, it lacks some functionality – such as internet browsing – and can't hit the performance and usability peaks that others manage.

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 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