For the longest time my MP3 Player was an iPod which, in all appreciation for how it changed the portable media market, is vastly inferior to some of the lesser known Portable Media Players to come out in recent years. The most significant, in my opinion, being the Cowon A3–the perfect portable media player for an anime lover such as myself. Why you ask? Format support–this thing can play just about -anything-. It can play H264 (unforunately it doesn’t yet support Main Profile) and XviD and most importantly; supports all sorts of container formats like OGM and MKV (Matroska Video). What does that all mean? Well, I’ll let you put two and two together; more than half of fansubbed anime is released in H264 format in an MKV container. Until now those have been unplayable on any form of portable media! That’s just the beginning of the A3′s awesomeness!
What makes this thing so great for an anime fan such as myself is that it has subtitle support! For now it’s not quite as comprehensive as I’d like, but Cowon appears to be working hard to make support better. As of now it doesn’t support internal subs, so they have to be extracted from MKVs with MKVExtract and it doesn’t support SubStation Alpha subtitles yet. Sadly SSA subs are the most popular among fansubbers, but fortunately many fansubbers are nice enough embed srt subs as well and for the ones that don’t there is always VobSub’s SubResync.
The A3 was designed to be an all-in-one multimedia device so it can do anything–even things you thought you’d never need. Audio and Video Recording for example; you can record lossless quality audio with the FLAC audio codec and record DVD resolution video up to 3Mbps! Expect to see lots of video captures of video games and such from this thing in the future. The recording system is quite good too; you can record audio and video from the line in, but you can also record it from the FM radio, the built-in microphone or even Wireless Television via DMB, 1SEG or DVB if you get a MobileTV tuner! It supports recurring schedules, so you can record daily or every weekday, or you could just schedule so specific date and time for a single recording.
It’s great to be able to just copy any media file over and not have to worry about converting it to something else first. The Cowon A3 doesn’t use any proprietary and confusing sorting system like most media players do; you can just copy any kind of media file anywhere on the hard drive by simply dragging and dropping files to a window on your computer. There is several default folders to sort things in, but it doesn’t actually restrict you to use of these folders. A good example of why this is good is music videos. Do you place them in the Movie folder or the Music folder? If you place them in the Music folder they will show up in the directory listing for the Movie Player, so you can place anything anywhere! What’s even greater is that it keeps track of what types of files are in each folder; if you go into the Music folder when browsing in the Movie Player you will only see folders listed that contain video files in them. It makes browsing for music videos much faster if you have a handful of music videos but have thousands of different albums from all sorts of different artists.
You’ll probably also love the Recent Files system it uses. The A3 keeps a list of the last 50 files you played without finishing them. Imagine you are on a trip somewhere and you decide to watch a movie; what if the movie is longer than the ride? You want to see how it ended don’t you? Well then, when you find the time to watch the rest, just turn on the A3 and go to Recent Files then select whatever it was you were watching and it will start back up right where you stopped it!
For audio there is full 10-band Equalization, BBE, Mach3Bass, MP Enhance and 3D Surround. As you might assume; you can get some rather fantastic audio quality out of this thing–that’s what Cowon is known for; audiophile-pleasing quality.
I also really like the Boundary setting for playback; you can set playback to restrict to all files, one folder in from Music, two folders in from Music or Playlist. If you organize your music by Album folders in Artist folders it makes this system work great; you can listen to a specific album, everything from a certain artist or everything. My only complaint is the playlist support; it uses some built-in playlist that you only have one of and it doesn’t allow saving or loading of common playlist formats used on the PC such as M3U Playlists.
The greatest thing about this device though? The screen. It sports a very high resolution 800×480 resolution in the same size as a PSP screen–that’s almost twice the resolution of the PSP’s screen! You know what else it has twice the PSP in? Brightness. The screen on this thing can be turned up so bright you can see the vibrant colors perfectly even in direct sunlight! *_*
The Cowon A3 also has a line-out for viewing on a bigger screen–and component, s-video and composite even! You can watch gorgeous 720p High Definition video on your big LCD TV from such a tiny portable unit!
Overall this is a truly amazing device that’s a simple firmware update away from being perfect. If you like having some sort of portable entertainment then go buy this device RIGHT NOW. No seriously, do it; you won’t regret it.