~ An Elliot Holmes Review ~
At a Glance
• The iAudio 10 delivers the same high sound quality which we have come to expect from Cowon over the years.
• The design of the player, while being a bit unusual, feels comfortable in your hand and seems to be pretty rugged.
• The player appears to be speedy to load music, videos and pictures and on the whole the screen is very clear.
• The touch-sensitive buttons do different things depending on which screen you’re on and it’s sometimes easy to get confused.
• The screen can be a little bit difficult to see in strong sunlight.
• There is no memory expansion.
The new Cowon iAudio 10 does a great job of replacing the Cowon iAudio 9 and in many ways gets you close to the Cowon S9. There are some features which would have been worth including, such as memory expansion, but if you’re just looking for a strong music player with a reasonable price then you couldn’t ask for more.
Cowon have been our first choice for great sounding music players for quite a while and the Cowon iAudio 10 doesn’t break from this model. Sure there were a few comments in the office about the iAudio 10 looking like the lovechild of the Cowon S9 and iRiver E200 but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all the S9 is still one of our best selling players to date and the iRiver E200 was a strong contender back when we used to stock them so if the iAudio 10 is on par then I think we can let looks slide.
While the design might seem a bit odd at first glance it does make sense in a way. The top back of the player is slim and stays that way until you near the volume buttons at which point you’ll notice a hump and the player getting a bit chubbier towards the bottom. Now it’s good fun to wobble the player on your desk or use it as a trebuchet to hurl bits of paper at your colleagues but what it apparently does is make the player sit comfortably in your hand.
Other than the unusual shape the rest of the design is what many have come to expect with Cowon players. There’s some solid volume buttons on the side, which can also be set to fast forward or rewind tracks when the player’s in hold mode, along with a power button which also doubles up as the hold button. Turning the player over reveals a small speaker on the back and lift a flap on the side uncovers the proprietary USB port. Sure there might not be anything new here but at least there’s some handy options for controlling the player somewhat in your pocket.
UI and Interface
Thankfully Cowon have improved the touch-pad on the i10 so now rather than sliding fingers diagonally across the pad to inevitably get lost in the menu you just have to learn what button does what. While browsing the main menu or selecting music users can simply touch the up and down buttons to…well move up and down. However, while perusing the now playing screen, for example, you need to press a specific button to open the sound settings, skip a track and so on. This is fine once you’ve memorised what button does what (or in my case strained your eyes trying to spot which button you need) but I can see a fair few first time users being a bit confused. Admittedly this isn’t a huge problem at the end of the day and the navigation is still a definite improvement over the i9.
Like the overall navigation the UI is much nicer than the Cowon i9 and possibly even better than some of the other recent Cowon offerings, such as the C2 which can be a slight beast to navigate. The i10 UI might be a bit basic looking and be largely driven by text but, generally speaking, it’s the fancier UIs which often lead to mass baldness. Once you’ve got those button controls down you should be able to speed about the player and end up where you need to be without any drama.
The sound quality is what we have come to expect from a Cowon player – strong. While there are ‘audiophile’ or ‘pocket stereo’ MP3 players on the market which have a better sound quality they will also cost you a big chunk of dosh (not to mention that the players themselves are the size of a small house…well that’s an exaggeration but you know what I mean). Having given the iAudio 10 a decent go with some fairly eclectic music it does a fantastic job of reproducing the sound and no particular genre seemed to suffer.
We’d have to say that in the sub-£200 market it’s looking like a really strong contender.
American spelling aside I can’t really see what Cowon are driving at here. There’s a lot of copy on the packaging about the ability for users to select their own menu colours and how this will ‘stimulate peoples physical and mental activities’; although considering that not many people will be staring at the colour of the menu screen when music is playing (because it’ll be in your pocket, innit) this makes me want to whisper gimmick softly under my breath.
Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh as it is nice that you can play around with the colours until you find a combination which is appealing to you (plus the pre-defined ones all have nice Science Water type names like ‘Purify’, ‘Concentrate’ and ‘Vitality’) but this is far from being a new idea (after all my archaic Creative Zen Vision: M lets me select different themes) and probably won’t make people rush to click the buy button. Basically what I’m trying to say is that I can certainly agree that it’s nice to have as a feature but Cowon please don’t try and use this as a selling point because nearly no-one will care.
For all intents and purposes the new Cowon iAudio 10 should prove to be an ideal choice if you want high quality of sound without having to remortgage. Initially the navigation may be peculiar for first time users but with practice most people should quite happily be able to whizz around without hassle.
Just don’t expect the Color Therapy UI to change your life.