I have now purchased and been using a Cowon J3 PMP. Since I’m not an electronics review blog, I’ll keep my observations short and somewhat personal. Obviously, I’ve been happy enough with Cowon to not deviate from them since I first purchased the A3 as a replacement to my original 4th gen iPod. (The 20gb iPod is ‘permanently’ attached in my car and I’m happy that support for updating it outside of iTunes is far better than it used to be, making it less ‘evil’ in my eyes than it used to be.)
My cons outweight the pros in number, but as far as value goes, the pros far outweigh the cons in my books. The gulf isn’t quite as big as when I got my A3 or even the iAudio 7, but the J3 makes me very happy indeed.
– sound quality: In short, the sound quality is fucking amazing. I love the full equalizer control and ability to play with some of the enhancing effets in the JetAudio software. I’m hearing songs in a new light with the J3. The 3d surround enhancement also makes me turn around now and then wondering if someone is behind me. Quite honestly, the sound is beautiful and it alone is worth the money.
– easy management: The biggest selling point for me has always been Cowon’s ability to be easy to load files into. Just plug the device into a Linux/Windows PC, it registers as a USB storage device, drag files to the Music folder, unplug and enjoy! I also have no need for playlists, fancy artist/album groupings, or complex playback depending on my mood. I just want to shuffle my 3,000 trance/techno songs. Or 4,000 chill songs. I only have 5 folders holding all of my ~70gb of music.
– small, light: lighter than my cell phone, so it is pocket-worthy! That was always one of the few issues with the A3 being too bulky for normal pockets.
– microsd support: The internal drive is only 32GB, which is small for me, but I love the microsd support. I can buy a new 32GB microsd card, load it with my chill music, and when I want to listen to it, just insert the card. Or just always keep the card in for 64GB available at all times.
– radio: Ok, I don’t listen to the radio, but if I ever needed (weather, emergencies) or wanted (sports, wake-up alarm) to, this guy has a built-in radio function.
– video support: Somewhat surprising, the files I’ve ripped from my movies that play on my A3 don’t play on the J3. This is somewhat perturbing as I’d rather not re-encode all my files. This kinda leads me to the conclusion that I should just rip my movie backups into ISO files rather than encoded media formats which may become useless or too lossy in the future (a debate I’ve been having with myself for some time now). The ISO files will always be useful as sources for doing future encodings, and my desktop systems will read them just fine for immediate playback. Anyway, it is not a huge deal as I’ve only rarely watched movies on my A3, and my A3 is still quite capable in that regard.
– mp3 playback shows album art: Some people wouldn’t think this is a con, but for me it is. I don’t download and update and manage album art, so most of my songs end up with a blank default icon filling about 2/3 of the mp3-playing screen. I’d love to turn that off or change the display or just have a generic wallpaper, but I’ve yet to find that option. This device isn’t going to convince me to start complicating my life with album art management. I find this a weird inclusion for a device really touted as the simple alternative for people who don’t want bloated music management.
– need an AC adapter: The J3 charges via a USB cable connected to a computer. However, while plugged in, you can’t use the J3 as it goes into a locked mode. Using the AC adapter will allow charging+playback. Not expensive or a huge deal, but just a small annoyance.
– special USB cable: The USB cable is not one I’ve seen before; and of course not one I have replacements for.
– included earbuds: Ok, the earbuds are just fine soundwise, but once you put the soft covers on them, you can’t tell visually which is the Left or Right earbud. I just scratch the outside of the Left one to tell. Also, I don’t get why one side always has a shorter length than the other.
– slow startup: The startup of the J3 is surprisingly slow, but not something that is a huge deal to me. I’m not impatient.
– doesn’t start music upon startup: Again, not a huge deal, but sometimes I’ll go a few minutes without any music before realizing I need to touch Music, and then Play to get things going. My A3 just starts right into whatever was playing when I turned it off.
– spotty accessories: The Cowon isn’t the biggest player on the market in the States, and as such the ability to score excellent accessories such as a padded case are slim. In fact, I still carry my A3 in a PSP case, which it fits into perfectly! I have yet to find something similarly perfect for the J3. Basically, just a padded sleeve or some sort is fine for me.
– shows fingerprints/scratches: The touchscreen and body show fingerprints easily, and the back metal can scratch easily. The “new” appearance of gear is always a tough mental battle to fight, but it is easiest to just accept that things will get scuffed, rather than fret over it! There are more important things in life to fret over.