Product Review: Cowon IAudio 6

The iAudio 6 is Cowon’s newest hard disk based portable media player. Previous models (iAudio 4 and 5) were all flash based with memory ranging from 128 MB to 1 GB. This newest model is a great improvement from its predecessors, with upgraded storage space (4 GB) and video/image viewing support.

One of the most noticeable differences with the iAudio 6 is its new slick, black appearance. I was never a fan of Cowon’s previous iAudio models, but the i6 really sets itself apart from other portable media players. The clumsy scroll buttons from the i5 have been replaced with a smooth, diagonal scroll pad. Navigation is much easier, and the interface is very easy to use. Opting for a more minimalist, stylish design, Cowon have removed some of the buttons seen in models from previous series. Aside from the play/pause and record buttons on the front side, only 3 buttons are present on this player: the menu button, hold switch and volume up/volume down buttons on the right side. There are no buttons on the left side of the player, and this makes the iAudio 6 less cluttered, something that was a problem with the previous models. The headphone jack is on top, and on the bottom there is a covered slot that allows transfer and charging via USB adapter. The back of the player is made of brushed aluminium, and the front buttons light up blue when the iAudio is turned on.

The i6 features a 1.3 inch (160 x 128 dot) 260,000 color OLED screen, perfect for viewing media on-the-go. While viewing videos and movies on may get tiring after a while, this is to be expected as the iAudio 6 is still meant to be an audio player with extra video capabilities. That being said, however, watching movies on this player is not the most pleasant experience. Compared with the 5G iPod’s 2.5 inch viewing space, the iAudio’s 1.3″ display make it very tiring to watch anything over an hour long. Video size is limited to 160 x 128, and watching movies at 15 frames per second is anything but entertaining. The player supports videos in MPEG-4 format.

The sound quality is excellent on this player, with suitable volume ranges up to 95 dB and a configurable EQ system. The standard two formats, MP3 and WMA are supported, as well as OGG, FLAC and WAV. Sound reproduction is great, with excellent response on the low end as well as on the middle/high levels. Everything sounds crisp and clear through a good set of headphones, and with support for FLAC formats, any audiophile will be pleased. There is also an equalizer, and although it might be limited in function, it still gets the job done.

The i6 now has a 4 GB 0.85 inch hard drive, something the previous models didn’t have (the i4 and 5 were flash based). This was to be expected, as the i6 is now a multimedia player, with support for audio and video. The player weighs in a bit more at 60 g, however the 0.85″ drive weighs very little, and compared to the previous models of the series, this is barely noticeable. Battery life is average, at 20 hours. Expect this to be significantly less if you view videos and pictures a lot. Charging via the USB adapter takes only 3 hours.

Other features include a digital watch, alarm, FM tuner, video recording and a text/file viewer. These are all standard features found in most PMPs these days, although the addition of a text/file viewer is nice. The player measures 76.1 x 35.6 x 19 mm, and weighs only 60g, perfect for pocket-storing. The new touch strip feels great and makes navigation very comfortable, although people with big fingers may find the front side buttons difficult to press. Apart from this, the iAudio 6 is a solid, small, portable media player. Video playback on this player may not be great; however I tend to think of it more as an audio player with added video support.

The iAudio 6 is a great portable media player with exceptional audio quality and a sleek, beautiful design. While it may cost a bit more than your average DAP (300 USD), its functionality and wide range of format support definitely makes up for the price.

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