The Cowon S9, in so many ways, is like a bad lookalike – you know the ones we mean: fat Elvis impersonators that call themselves Suspiciously Elvis. That sort. The S9 desperately wants to be an iPod Touch, but only comes in with 8GB and 16GB models, no Bluetooth support, no Wi-Fi and no web browser. That said, this does trump the iPod with one major ace: audio quality.
Forget about Apple for a minute and imagine you’d never touched the Touch’s sexy screen. The S9′s 3.3-inch colour OLED display is unbelievably bright and bursting with colours. Touch it and you begin to wonder why every PMP doesn’t use OLED displays. Unfortunately the interface is more crappy than those Portaloos you get at festivals. It’s fussy, overcomplicated and a mess compared to the iPod’s elegant interface.
While video reproduction is excellent the Cowon is unable to understand the latest MPEG-4 or H.264 clips. Still it’s really the audio quality that allows the S9 to sit next to the big boys on the shelves. The BBE+ audio system really punches up compressed music files, giving your ears a sonic tickling they’ve probably only heard from a Sony player.
Not a bad attempt, then, at beating the Touch at its own game. If only Cowon had created an interface to match the sonics we’d be talking about an iPod beater here. As it is it’s more of a decent alternative.