These days, a smartphone can do it all –  take snapshots, record videos, play music, turn into a GPS device, and more. Several smartphones are even targeted at audiences who're looking for an entertainment hub. Do we need media players with smartphones around? Now, this could be debatable, depending upon what one’s looking for. However, the PMP market, which is dominated by Apple, has several other players still entering markets to allure music enthusiasts. Two weeks back, Cowon had put up the 4GB version of its latest iAudio 10 for pre-order. The highlight of the device, like most Cowon players, is its battery life that it promises along with plush looks. Read on to know what the Cowon iAudio 10 (i10) holds within, as we unfold its attributes. 

Effects to choose from

Design and build quality
The iAudio 10 takes design cues from the plush looking S9, sporting a curvaceous back and sides. However, it drops the full touchscreen for a 3-inch TFT 240 x 400 LCD display and a capacitive touchpad, which together form the complete front surface. The edges and the rear side of the i10 have a rubberized texture dipped in shades of black or white. The touchpad has been crafted to navigate across its menu, and the device has minimalist physical buttons on the sides – volume controller and power/hold button. One will also find a mini-USB port (USB cable included) for syncing and charging, a 3.5mm jack and speakers (on the backside).

The media player is sleek and light in weight, tipping the scale at 73 grams and easily slips into pockets. Disappointingly, neither the earphones give a good fit, nor has Cowon has included multiple earbuds for added comfort. The front surface acts as a finger print magnet and even picks on dust. Surprisingly, Cowon hasn’t included a microSD card slot, so you’ll have to pick from the storage capacities ranging from 4GB to 32GB. Overall, the built quality is good and the device feels quite sturdy when held.

Cowon i10

Using the blue color therapy


Cowon offers ten color schemes to choose the backround from and icons, and calls it 10 Color Therapy. The menu is made up of Music, Videos, Pictures, Documents, Radio, Recorder and Settings. You can tweak the appearance of the menu through settings and choose from revolving icons, typeface, and quick player. The revolving icon gives a retro look with huge icon representation like rotating gramophone record for Music and a cassette for Recorder. The capacitive touch pad used for navigation embeds buttons in the form of minute LEDs, which illuminate on a slight touch.

The touchpad features 7 buttons, two rows of three buttons each, and a main center button. The four corners of the display indicate the function assigned to the four corner buttons. The assigned function may change depending upon what the user is accessing. For example, on the homescreen, the upper corner buttons are used for clock and calendar, respectively. These buttons are assigned with move to the previous and next track functions, respectively, as you click on the music icon.  The lower middle button shows your songs in a listed form. This list can be navigated swiftly by simply sliding your finger vertically across the middle buttons. The interface is quite simple, but the touchpad didn’t respond well, on several instances. The i10 supports 17 languages in all, and also comes with the clock/cal widget, which can be turned on/off according to one’s preference.
We loaded the device with our favorite tracks. The device supports audio files like mp3, flac, ogg, wma, wav and ape. The audio settings offer equalizers, mark favorites, control the speed of a song and also form playlists. It includes Shuffle and Repeat options as well. The music interface shows the album art at the center and also a similar slightly faded picture in the background. On the video front, the device supports limited file formats as avi, wmv, and asf. It can play 400 x 240 clips at 30 fps. However, we tried a 720p video and the device handled it pretty well. The video interface is simple and you can view the progression bar with a tap on the device, which will pause the video, too.

reads .txt files

Reads .txt files

Misc features
In addition to music and movie players, the i10 supports FM Radio, photo viewer, document viewer and recorder. The FM radio picked signals quickly and performed without any distortion. It allows switching between auto and manual presets with a single tap. You can record a song while your favorite radio channel plays it. The photo viewer has been included to store and view JPG files. The photos can also be viewed as a slide show while you listen to those peppy tunes. A document viewer rather an e-book reader that supports .txt files has been added. The background of the reader can be changed using the 10 color therapy function and so can one set the font size. You can run through pages by scrolling the upper buttons sideways.
The touchpad interface didn’t work efficiently and the screen froze on several instances. The screen’s viewing angles aren’t very good. On one hand, when titled to the left, the screen dims, but when tilted to the right, things don’t change as drastically. This occurs when used in the landscape mode – typically, when you use it to view a video. The loudspeaker is poor and isn’t capable of filling even a small room. Moreover, the speakers are located on the rear, so the music fades off if it is placed on a couch or any other cushiony surface.

photo slide show

Photo slide show

We used the bundled earphones as well as a separate reference pair of earphones. Audio quality of the bundled earphones isn’t too impressive. They are very loud and you’re likely to use the player at its maximum volume. The earphones lack bass of any sort, so all the music, no matter what the genre sounds flat and lacks character. The highs are well rendered and mids are somewhat diminished. Isolation isn’t too impressive, since a lot of sound leaks out. The fact that the earphones don’t come with a fabric cover makes it painful to wear for long hours. The external speakers distort at high volumes.

With other earphones, there’s a massive improvement visible in almost all aspects. Mids are more prominent and the highs get balanced by that. Bass also improves. If you are watching a movie or listening to music and are interrupted by something, say you accidentally touch the home icon and then go back to the Music or movie, it resumes from where it was stopped. Videos come with a clip view mode, which splits your movie/video in multiple screen and you can decide which scene you want to watch or show a friend. Though, the screen and video quality is decent, the small 3-inch screen doesn’t make watching videos or reading books pleasurable.

Battery Life
The Cowon i10 equips a lithium polymer battery that promises 38 hours of audio or 6.5 hours of video playback. However, it managed to deliver around 19 hours of audio and little over 4 hours of video playback, which is good. With a little below average usage, it squeezed through a day and half.

Currently, the 4GB model carries an MRP of Rs.6,750, but is available at a price of Rs.6,600 on Cowon's website. There is no external memory support, so you are left with 4GB storage that can hold roughly 1,000 songs.

In a nutshell, the device offers decent tunes with vast audio format support. The price seems a little high for 4GB storage. It is a decent buy, if you are ready to shell out the moolah.

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