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Old 01-24-2007, 12:00   #1
Martinp
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Default Cowon iAudio T2 Review

Cowon iAudio T2 Review
for iAudiophile.net by Martin Plappert


Introduction

The Cowon iAudio T2 is Cowon’s first Digital Audio Player (DAP) that is “wearable tech fashion”. This is a different design approach: Previously Cowon would try and cram as much cool tech into a device and market it from there. Now they have actually removed features such as Line-In recording, picture viewing and video playback to create a new type of player.


The T2 is geared towards a different audience by offering design over features. The player does look very good, but has Cowon thoroughly designed the rest of the player too?

We are going to take a close look at what this player has on offer.


Specifications

The full Cowon iAudio T2 specs can be found on the Cowon Global website, but here are the main ones:

• MP3, OGG, WMA, ASF, WAV playback, FM Radio Receiver and Recording, Voice Recording
• Built-in Flash Memory (1GB/2GB)
• High-Speed USB 2.0 Interface
• 0.9 inch OLED display with 96x96 resolution and 65K colors
• Battery life: 12 hours


Size and Weight:

iAudio T2: 53 x 29 x 13 mm @ 24g
Iriver S10: 42 x 20 x 10.8 mm @ 17.5 g

One has to compare the T2 to the iriver S10 in terms of a size and weight, seeing that the two players are in the same category. The iriver is obviously smaller and lighter than the Cowon and has a larger screen.


Package Accessories

The box the T2 comes in is pretty enough, but is nothing majorly exciting here. It has the player, and the neck strap, so that you can hang it around your neck nicely. There is also a USB Cable and a USB keyring thingy which is practical, because this means fewer cables to lug around with you and also that you can use the T2 as a flash drive anywhere you go. There is also some software on a CD and a basic manual in many languages. If you run into problems though, you will have to consult the CD – a full manual is available on it in PDF format.


Data Transfer & Music Management

As with all the new Cowon iAudio players the iAudio T2 supports both the Universal Mass Storage (UMS) and the Media Transfer Protocol (MTP) standard. You will want to use UMS if you want to be able to access your files from any computer with Linux, MacOS or Windows. You will want MTP if you want to synchronise your files using Windows Media Player or are using a subscription service like Napster to Go. The T2 is officially a “plays for sure” device, which means that it should work just fine with all subscription services that use this standard.

Another thing that the new Cowon players are capable of is id3 tag browsing; there are two different ways of navigating through music on a player. The one is by creating folders and putting your files in them. The other is by editing the id3 tag information on your files and having the player sort the songs for you.

The T2 is capable of doing both these things and you can easily switch between the two modes. There are a few small problems with id3 tag browsing though. Currently the T2 cannot read tags on ogg files correctly, which really needs to be addressed by Cowon.

Transferring music to the player is very easy. Either you sync with Windows Media Player or a similar application, or you just use the T2 as an external hard drive by dragging and dropping files onto it. The player uses the USB 2.0 standard, and is pretty speedy too:


The thing that annoys me about the T2 here is that it’s not a standard USB socket. It’s one of those extra small ones, and these just annoy me, because it only means that I am going to have to carry an extra cable with me. All Cowon players since and including the iAudio 4, have used the USB socket that is found on most digital cameras e.g. Canon or Sony.


Design and Build Quality

The design of the T2 is very nice. It’s very cubey, black and shiny. It is possible to remove the top shiny bit that says Cowon on it, so that you can attach normal headphones, but that kind of destroys the whole point of the player.

Which brings me up to the next point: The T2 only works well with the attached headphones, which means that it doesn’t really appeal to anyone who wants to use his or her own headphones. This is a shame really, seeing that the standard ear buds really limit the player’s capabilities in regards to sound quality.

So really player really is a fashion statement – a bit like a really cool iPod shuffle I guess.


The build is really quality. As usual I abused the player, but it still works just fine. I didn’t have it in my pocket though, because I decided to wear it like it was intended to be worn. So I felt like a bit of a pansy at times, because this isn’t really “my style”.

I tried to force the player apart from the headphone attachment. It suffices to say that if someone wanted to steal the F2 from you while you are wearing it, the player wouldn’t going anywhere, unless the headphone cables broke.

One negative point the F2 earns is for super fingerprint magnet of the year. Seriously, the player has more shiny surfaces to be smudged up than any other player I have ever seen before. So you will frequently have to be wiping it on your t-shirt to remove the prints.


Screen, GUI & OS

The Screen is an OLED display that is 0.9 inches in size, has a resolution of 96x96 pixels and a 65K colour depth. I personally would love to see the T2 with a bigger screen. When I first got the player I thought “Is that it?” In theory so much more of the players face could have been used to put some more “screen real estate” on the device. The OLED is bright and Cowon probably used it because these types of display use less power. I am not completely convinces though. The whole Graphical User Interface looks like it has a slightly green tinge to it. It just doesn’t look as crisp as it could, or as good as the one on the iAudio F2.


The GUI is pretty as such, but it’s nothing super exciting. Cowon definitely did a better job on the F2. I wouldn’t mind seeing something like the ability on the iAudio U3 to switch between multiple GUI colours.

The operating system is very stable and the player hasn’t crashed on me a single time.


Navigation & Controls

Well, here comes my big gripe with the iAudio T2 – they basically recycled the iAudio 4’s controls, but removed a few of the buttons to make navigation even harder.

I personally find the navigation very confusing at times. To enter the mode selection menu you press the menu button two times. But if you press it while you are actually doing something, e.g. changing your equalizer settings, it kicks you back to the “now playing” screen. I can remember when I received the i4 a long time ago about telling Cowon off for their control layouts, but they obviously forgot and implemented ones that are worse. They sacrificed usability for beauty, and I think this is a shame.


I would much rather see every device from Cowon having dedicated volume control buttons and being a little bigger and clunkier, than having to be annoyed at the controller layout. I don’t really feel like going on too much – the controls are a pain at times, especially if you like changing the EQ settings on a regular basis. If you just want to skip through songs and change the volume from time to time, you should be just dandy.


Audio Playback & Sound Quality

Well, I am guessing that most people who buy this player will be using the stock ear buds, and they are okay, but don’t do the T2 justice at all. There is a 5 band EQ on the player that is highly customizable and then there are the BBE effects, which are cool in moderation.

The output power of the T2 is specified at 23 mW per channel at 16 Ohm. This is enough to drive a decent set of headphones, but seeing that most people will only be using the player with the stock buds, it’s more than enough to kill you eardrums.

I hooked up my Grado SR80 to the T2 and it’s quite a funny sight, because the headphone plug of off the Grado’s is nearly bigger than the player. The player combined with the SR80s sounds great and on max volume - I can take the headphones off and roam around my small university room and still hear the song just fine.


The T2 played all MP3, OGG, WMA & WAV files I threw at it with no problems at all. One should note, that there is no FLAC support on the T2 like on all Cowon’s other current players.

I was not able to test any subscription based services and did not do much testing of the device in MTP mode, seeing that I am not signed up to a service like Napster or Yahoo Unlimited. If you want to use your player with one of these services, I recommend that you check our forums. But I think there is nothing to be worried about, seeing that the T2 is an officially certified “Plays for Sure” device by Microsoft.

There is also a very small gap between two separate tracks that in theory should flow together. This is a feature called gapless and is still not supported by any Cowon devices.


Playlisting & Bookmarking

The playlisting system on the iAudio T2 is overly simple and does not offer many features. It’s easy to use though, but in total there are only two operations possible. Adding a track to the dynamic playlist and removing it again. There are no options to move a song up or down the list. The ability to save a dynamic playlist that you created is also absent. The T2 is not able to read m3u files either – this is a standard format that is used to create playlist on a computer. This is strange, because the iAudio M3 and X5 both supported this feature.

The bookmarking feature on the other hand is very handy for anyone that listens to audio books or long audio files. It is very easy to bookmark a position in any file, listen to some other stuff and then return to exactly the spot where you just were.


FM Radio

The T2 has a handy integrated FM Radio receiver with a good quality reception. The reception always depends on where you are living though. From all the reviews I have read I have the feeling that Radios in the US have a higher output than here in Europe, because people in America say that the radio reception is “excellent” when I just say that it is “good”.

Also the antennae that is used for the FM Radio reception is basically the headphone cable. So the quality of the headphone cable will always influence reception quality.


Recording

The T2 offers a whole bundle on recording options. I will just outline the formats the iAudio T2 is able to record in here shortly, because they are the same for all recording modes. The recording format is wma, and you can select bitrates of 64kbps, 80kbps, 96 kbps and 128 kbps.


FM Radio Recordings

Recording FM Radio is really simple. All you need to do is switch to the FM Radio mode and menu button for a second. Thanks to the good integrated FM tuner radio recordings sound just fine, and if you really wanted to, you could add the recordings to your collection.

I have a short sample recording here that I did of a radio station that has medium transmission power in my area. Some radio stations from the BBC come over crystal clear, but I wanted to show how the T2 handles medium quality signals.

FM Radio sample recording


Voice Recordings

Voice recording has been a feature on all iAudio players since the CW200. The quality of the microphones used in the players has varied over time, but I found the one in the T2 to be okay. The only thing is that it picks up a little white noise, but it makes up for that by having a very good range. Take a listen to a sample recording I made with the F2 in my room:

Sample voice recording


Battery

The battery on the iAudio T2 is rated at 12 hours. It is charged whenever you connect the player to the USB port of your computer. One thing that I noticed while I was away for a few days and hadn’t used the T2 for a while, was that the battery had drained somewhat. Perhaps I was just imagining this, but it’s not something a player should do.

I personally find a specified battery life of 12 hours, that I found to be more like 11 in reality to be a bit meagre, but increasing playback time would mean increasing the size of the device. In comparison to the iriver S10 the battery life is pretty good (S10 is rated at 8 hours).

Charging the battery doesn’t take very long either. It reaches something like 80% capacity in under an hour.


Price

The T2 is priced very competitively to other players in its size and capacity class. You can purchase the iAudio T2 from:

[ame=http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000H6YWQU?ie=UTF8&tag=dapreview-20&creativeASIN=B000H6YWQUhttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000H6YWQU?ie=UTF8&tag=dapreview-20&creativeASIN=B000H6YWQU]Amazon[/ame]


Conclusion

The iAudio T2 is a good player with slightly complicated navigation. All in all I can recommend this player for anyone looking for “wearable MP3 Player fashion”. It has excellent sound quality, looks good and is nice and small.

Category name% of total scoreScore
Accessories1060
Design1385
Data transfer/management1090
Screen875
Navigation & handling1450
Sound quality1685
Battery effeciency1060
Additional features860
Price1175
Totals100 
Deductions/Bonusesnone 
End totals 72/100
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Last edited by austinv; 08-08-2008 at 16:24..
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