Cowon S9

This touch-screen MP3 player competes with the iPod touch. It has plenty of features and a great display, but its interface isn't the best.

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Cowon S9
  • Cowon S9
  • Cowon S9
  • Cowon S9
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5


  • Gorgeous screen, plenty of formats supported, great battery life


  • User interface isn’t as good as iPod’s, plastic casing feels cheap and tacky

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a portable media player with exceptionally good audio and video quality, and the added bonus of native XviD support, the Cowon S9 is the one for you. It doesn’t have the design flair or great interface of the Apple iPod touch, but overall it is an impressive product.

Would you buy this?

The Cowon S9 is a touch-screen portable media player that offers great audio quality and a fantastic AMOLED screen. There are 8GB and 16GB versions available.

The first thing you notice upon picking up the Cowon 9 is how light it is — at 77 grams it’s half the weight of the Apple iPod touch. This is fantastic if it spends all its time in your pocket but when holding it, it seems too light to be well built.

This is deceptive though — after a week of real-world testing we didn't notice any scratches or damage on the MP3 player’s exterior. The buttons also held up well, although the central Play button might be prone to damage as it protrudes from the Cowon S9’s body.

Apart from the top-mounted volume control and track skip buttons, the player has a combination power/hold switch, a headphone jack and a proprietary USB port. This port is wider than the mini-USB standard and seems more secure, but you won't be able to charge or connect the player to a PC unless you have the cable on hand.

The touch screen of the Cowon S9 is excellent. It is capacitive just like the Apple iPod touch, and we think it’s just as responsive. Sensitivity is uniform across the Cowon S9’s 3.3in screen. Its 480x272 resolution may not sound particularly high but contrast, sharpness and colour accuracy are fantastic. Because it’s an AMOLED screen rather than a traditional LCD, its viewing angles are exceptional.

Our main annoyance with the Cowon S9 MP3 player was its user interface. It would be a huge ask for it to offer the same ease of use as Apple’s premier media player — the bar has been set incredibly high. Cowon’s user interface simply tries to do too much. On-screen playback and equaliser controls can get cluttered, detracting from the overall experience.

The Cowon S9 supports an impressive list of audio and video formats. MP3, WMA, WAV, OGG, APE and FLAC formats means that enthusiasts can play high quality lossless audio files, while MPEG-4, WMV, DivX and XviD codec support means a wide variety of downloaded video files can be played. There’s no h.264 support but this is rare in portable media players with low processing power.

Bluetooth is included for pairing the Cowon S9 with wireless speakers or headphones, while a variety of other novelties like voice recording, Flash support and FM radio add value — even if they probably won’t be used often.

We’d think the Cowon S9 is one of the best portable media players we have ever heard. Plenty of audio presets and audio-enhancement effects are available to alter the sound to your tastes. It sounds better than any iPod and the BBE+ audio enhancement suite is far superior to the simplistic effects found on the Creative Zen X-Fi. Cowon rates the battery life at a massive 55 hours for audio and 11 for video.

The Cowon S9 has a long list of impressive features; it is these along with the fantastic screen and sound quality that make it a strong competitor to Apple’s iPod touch.

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