Cowon D3 review Cowon D3 review

Categories: MP3 & Audio Reviews   Tags: , , ,
We love
Great sound quality, lavish screen
We hate
Android is almost unusable, chunky
This is not the Android iPod touch rival you're looking for
Launch Price
10 Pages

Cowon D3 review

We want to love the Cowon D3, genuinely we do. Cowon cranks out PMPs with amazing sound and solid video support. But its first bash at an Android powered model has some serious flaws. Read on and find out what in our full Cowon D3 review.

Cast your mind back to last Spring, when we reviewed the Cowon J3: we said that for iTunes haters the delightful little portable media player was one of the best iPod touch alternatives out there. Sadly, its Android powered sequel is not.

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On paper, the Cowon D3 sounds like a dream come true: Android and Wi-Fi combined with a 3.7-inch AMOLED screen and Cowon’s sterling media skills, plus HDMI out put for 1080p playback on your telly, FM radio, 32GB of storage and microSD slot for adding your own storage.

Design and build

As you'd expect, Cowon has delivered with a gorgeous screen

That screen certainly is gorgeous: at 800×480 it’s just as sharp and vibrant as anything we’ve come to expect from the South Korean firm, and the fact that video support is so solid: it effortlessly handled your regular AVI and MP4 files, and even high def MKV clips without stutter.

We didn’t get to test the HDMI output unfortunately – this requires a cable sold separately, although we were more alarmed to find a US charger in the box instead of a UK one too. You can charge the Cowon D3 through its USB cable, but watch you don’t lose it as it irritatingly uses a proprietary connection.

This is the only angle the Cowon D3 looks nice from

In reality however, the Cowon D3 is far too big to be practical: it’s thicker and wider than the similarly shaped Nokia N8, and positively gigantic when placed next to a fourth generation iPod touch. It doesn’t help that the track control and pause/play buttons on the side don’t always react immediately when you press them – though we suspect the software might be to blame here.


The Cowon D3 breaks with tradition by running Android: outside of Archos’ range, very few Android flavoured media players are actually on sale in the UK yet, although on the basis of this, we can see why. Running a skinned version of the year old Android 2.1 build without Google’s core apps, the Cowon D3 exhibits all of the problems with Google’s OS, and none of its great advantages.

The Cowon D3 runs a skinned version of Android

At first glance, everything seems in order. The menu screen is attractive, and launched from the homescreen with a swipe from the right hand side of the display. The web browser is pretty nippy, and the touchscreen keyboard easy to type with. Cowon’s even tweaked it enough to run lossless audio file formats like FLAC natively, which audiophiles will love, and there’s a pleasant CD widget for juggling your tracks. You won’t be able to install apps from the Android Market however, so you’ll have to find APK files for anything you want to install – not always an easy task.

But – and this for us is a dealbreaker – the Cowon D3′s Android build is so unstable as to be nigh on unusable. It crashed repeatedly in testing, despite numerous resets, causing whatever app was open to drop.

We also found the Cowon D3 became unreasonably warm with use – it’s possible you could feel it through your pocket.


For all the Cowon D3′s media playing skills and incredible sound – its audio quality through headphones is vastly superior to anything Apple can muster – this is a flawed device, especially at an eye watering £279. By contrast, the 32GB new iPod touch sells for £254 on the Apple Store.

With powerful Android phones becoming so cheap these days, we’re also wondering if the Android PMP market is already dead in the water – why buy this chunkster when you can get a great phone with most of the same skills for £100 today? We can’t answer that for you, but maybe Samsung will soon.

Cowon D3 review unit supplied by

  • maguest

    unstable to the point of unusable is obviously a deal breaker. however to address “why buy this chunkster when you can get a great phone with most of the same skills” – i don't know what the battery life is like on the D3 but i own the J3 and the battery lasts for days. my android phone in comparison chokes after a few hours.

    • W Lewis13

      I hear the D3 has a paltry battery life. Officially only rated at 20 hours for audio, so there's nothing gained here either.

  • Frankie

    “why buy this chunkster when you can get a great phone with most of the same skills”. How about excellent audio quality and compatibility with most video codecs (no having to  mess about encoding/ converting video)

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