Cowon is still intent on regularly refreshing its range of MP3 players, and as is fairly typical, the iAudio 10 arrives with another “twist”, on standard functionality and support. The company rarely issues small, understated devices and this is another fairly large offering, designed to be the natural evolution of the iAudio 9. The new model benefits from a 3 inch (400×240) display, which has a 50 per cent larger screen than its predecessor.
Design and build
The preference for “mobile phone” sized PMPs does seem a little strange, considering modern smartphones are capable of much of the functionality of these players. This is, in many cases, with reduced sound quality, and we’re still not sure how many people would be happy to carry around two similarly sized devices in a pocket. Regardless, the iAudio 10 is pretty good looking, with a curved, lightly-rubberised back-plate and touch sensitive controls. It’s also very light – so light in fact, that we suspect it could have been slimmed down a little more. At just 12.6mm thick, it’s hardly going to make an impression on a pocket. A volume rocker on the right edge is fairly standard, though the headphone’s port sits at the bottom and we’re not sure about the placement of the power button, at the bottom left edge. This can be easy to hit inadvertently, when holding the device in landscape mode. The absence of a microSD port has been noted, though Cowon do offer this player in capacities up to 32GB and at a pretty reasonable price – which should be enough for most.
Operation and interface
The iAudio 10’s interface is inherently very straightforward, with a simple list of menu items to choose from, though the usual wallpaper and customisation options are available. What does take a bit of getting used to is the touch-sensitive control pad. The device has no dedicated “home”, “back”, or similar keys; the operation of each control is context-sensitive, and appears on screen, depending on what you’re doing with the player at that time. You do get used to this quickly and it will become easier to browse through the menus, but expect to spend some time squinting at the screen, trying to locate the position of the command that you’re looking to execute.
Media browsing is easy enough, with a choice of ID3Tag information available to make it easy to browse large collections of music, with folder views to help skip and select between organised photo and video content. There’s also a simple document viewer, FM radio, voice recorder, with handy extras such as time display and alarm. The built-in speaker is loud and surprisingly capable, given the dimensions of the device.
Display and audio quality
As is typical of Cowon, the audio performance is good and is boosted by its JetEffect range, which offers a massive array of equalizer and effect customisation with accurately labelled presets – to help you choose the right environment for your music. The audio prowess of Cowon’s recent players is well noted amongst the music community and while it’s not quite on par with the Cowon C2 our comments here sum things up nicely, as it’s close enough to deserve similar plaudits. However, the supplied earphones, while a bit better than we expected, will still need replacing to get even close to the potential of the player.
Unfortunately, the display isn’t as crisp as we’d hoped – images and video are sharp but colours look a little washed out, while refresh rates aren’t too good for fast-moving video. It’s also fairly reflective, which can be a problem in direct sunlight, and since the speaker is placed underneath the phone, towards the bottom, it’s a bit too easy to cover this with your hand when finding a comfortable viewing position.
The formats supported are very good, with a range of typical and lossless audio formats supported, and video that includes WNV, ASF and WMV alongside more standard AVI and DivX/Xvid codecs.
Cowon usually likes to offer somethinig a bit different with its players and the iAudio 10’s “headline” feature is the Color Therapy display modes. This is accessible directly from the home screen, and are simply a range of colour schemes that allegedly complement or stimulate moods – such as “concentrate”, “vitality” and “activity”. Setting aside the fact that we’re not at all convinced these will have any particular impact, the fact that you’ll rarely be staring at the player’s interface for long enough, for them to have an effect, also means this is set squarely in “gimmick” territory.
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- Excellent audio quality; good value for money; a range of customisation options.
- Some design issues; display could be better; lack of microSD card slot.
Despite the lack of a microSD card slot, 32GB for £149 is pretty good value for money. This is far from Cowon’s most feature packed player and doesn’t introduce anything genuinely useful to the market, but it’s a very solid PMP that is nicely designed and offers superb audio for those with a good ear for quality.