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The time when you switched from one FM radio channel to the other on your phone, or changed CDs into your disc players, is passť. Now with newer technologies and affordable prices, there is a whole new world to explore. I, for one, am really pepped up about the changing face of the portable players' industries in India. Although it's still plagued by the vices of duties, malpractices at the customs level, and more taxes. This leads to undue price inflation. Cowon's new baby to have hit the Indian shores is the jazzy portable video player, the A2. There is lot it has to offer, let's see what Cowon has in its goody bag this time.
The A2 comes in a plush blend of glossy white and elegant gray, and boasts a somewhat minimalist design. The front side of the player carries only the screen and an array of neatly piled buttons. The thumbstick is a four-way navigational key, placed right at the top where it's easy to access. Working with the thumbstick poses some amount of challenge, though, as it doesn't respond to the jabbing favorably. Often you will find the selection cursor going down or selecting options when you hit the left key and vice versa. Once you get used to it, there'll be some respite, but not completely.
The back button and the three function keys (A,B & C) are in line one below the other. The function keys correspond to the on-screen options, and are well spaced. No hassles here! The right side of the player is bare save for the power button. The standard 3.5mm earphone jack flanks the left side, and right below it you will find the AV in/out jacks, the mini USB slot and one USB host slot, all encased in a gray enclosure. Slightly below this you will find a 5V DC in jack. At the bottom of the player you will find a button that allows you to toggle between the LCD screen, AV out and hold.
At 133 x 79 x 22mm, 298g the player makes for a bulky purchase. Yet the fact that it’s loaded with features doesn’t leave much space for complaints. The player comes with a leather carry case that makes handling the player very easy. The case can also be folded into place to kickstand the player, although it's not very reliable and requires an absolutely even surface. Considering the fact you will be watching a lot of movies on the player, not providing a sturdy kickstand is a bad move in my opinion. Anyone listening??
The A2 is equipped with a 4-inch screen (480x272 pixels), which is a 16:9 wide TFT LCD with 0.183mm pixel pitches that comes with the integrated high density and high definition technology. This allows crisp and sharp viewing on the screen, be it movies or photos. The player has an in-built 30GB memory, which is hard drive based so no monkey business!!
The User-Inteface is easy to use with mostly everything situated on the main screen. There are the Music, Video, Photo, Text, FM, System etc icons that will lead you to the various modes that the player has to offer.
Apart from playing videos and music, the player also allows recording video through a TV, or any other external AV device. All the necessary cables are bundled in and recording videos is not difficult at all.
Since the player is not equipped with a touch-screen, the player allows the resume boot option. Using this you can pause or shut the A2 in the middle of a movie or a song. On boot it will simply start the player from the last incomplete operation. Very convenient!
While navigating folders you can change player mode by pressing B. With this you can easily juggle between the video, music or photo mode.
Also, if this interests you, I’ll tell you a way to enjoy movies with your girl friend (any one else too, but this means sitting real close to each other). Step one — connect one set of earphones to the earphone jack. Step two — connect the second set in to the AV out jack. Now, the audio transmission will not be very high on the second pair, you will need to use the left of one set and the right of the second. Your partner does the same and what you have is a perfect (not so much, but quite enjoyable) way of watching a movie together in a restaurant or the likes.
You can also connect any other portable device using the USB host cable and transfer data. One of the first things that come to my head is the ease in transferring pictures from my digital camera to the player once the card is full. This also helps in later viewing and displaying pictures to your friends and the like.
I was a little disappointed initially when I couldn’t find a single dedicated stop button. But then it is compensated by the latest firmware download. Now if you press the back button for about 2 seconds longer, it acts as the stop button. Cool!!
You must have often caught me cribbing about the low volume of music players these days. I will not indulge in any of that here. The A2, in all honesty, is loud!! You will happy to know that this player can eliminate any further need to purchase a portable music player.
The player accommodates a 5-band equalizer with both built-in as well as manual presets. All the frequencies are evenly spread, and the bass doesn’t jar even at high volumes. You can also make use of features like BBE, Machbass, pitch control, 3D surround etc for the added boost, if required.
The bundled earphones work satisfactorily well with the A2, although the highs were boosted and the lows were a bit weak. I will suggest purchasing a nice set of headphones, as this will only enhance your experience. It supports MP3, WMA, OGG, and WAV formats, as well as lyric (.ldb) files.
You will be impressed to know the amount of things the player can manage. If you are a movie buff, this will be a primary source of inspiration to pick up any PVP. I also happen to know someone who bought one to while his time in the trains from home to office and vice versa.
One thing I really love about his player is that you don’t have to convert any video files for viewing. It comes with an integrated DivX player with an official registration number. This pretty much covers all the formats you can think of, including AVI, DivX/XviD, WMV, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and ASF. It also supports the AC3 sound format, which almost all the new DivX movies come with. However, if you do have a problem with a variation of DivX files then you can make use of the bundles software and simply convert. Conversion takes as long as the duration of the movie/clip etc., but trust me I haven’t had the need to convert even once. Although, you will need conversion for Quicktime and Real Media files.
Viewing movies is a pleasure on the A2, although we noticed some mosaic compression on the screen. This was prevalent in almost all the movies, but that’s something you can easily ignore if entertainment is what you seek.
One of the downsides of not equipping the player with touch-screen is that reaching a particular place in the movie requires fast forwarding. Yet, this is aided by a feature where in you can simply hold the thumbstick in place toward the right and the rate at which the player fast forwards increases manifold.
You can change video settings while watching the movie itself, which is bliss. You can change the aspect ratio from either 16:9 or 4:3 to auto. There is a Pan & Scan feature, which lets you zoom into the movie up to 300 percent. This acts just like the digital zoom feature and distorts the frames at the highest pan level. I don't see any reason why you should be doing this.
Apart from this there is an option to control the playback speed, subtitle color, and an option to switch off subtitles and shuffle between movie audio tracks. One of the most useful features that the A2 offers is an option to take screenshots. You can use it for your blog or to use as wallpaper.
You can view pictures on it and it has a voice recorder. It supports BMP, PNG, and JPEG image formats. It can also be used to view your text files. And I have to admit the screen makes it real easy on the eyes while reading. However, it’s not very convenient to keep reading e-books at length.
According to the user manual, the battery life is said to be up to 10 hours for video and up to 18 hours for music. I managed to watch three movies back to back (Bridge to Terabithia, Pirates of the Caribbean and Science of Sleep) and there was still some battery left in it. For music, the player gave a little over 16 hours before it drained out completely.
The player comes with the Charger, and the player can also be charged through the USB cable, although it takes up to 15 hours to charge. One of the problems with the A2 is that if the battery dies out completely, you will need the charger to bring it back to life. The USB in this case doesn’t do anything.
The player is a little bulky and on the heavier side, which means you most definitely can’t shove it down your pocket. But this can hardly be termed as a downside since it is one of the lightest PVPs in the market. Also for all the media it can manage, I think a little weight is tolerable. It costs Rs 24,000 in the Indian market, and for movie enthusiasts who have some spare cash to satisfy the urge, the player sounds like a nice idea. Personally, I think it's an awesome deal.