Released in 2007, Cowon's quickly earned a reputation for outstanding sound quality, a long-lasting battery and cutting-edge touchscreen technology. Two years later, the Cowon D2+ refines the audio quality and touchscreen interface that made the original model so compelling.
The D2+ will be available soon, costing around £140 for the 8GB version and £170 for the 16GB version.
Physically, the D2+ is nearly indistinguishable from its predecessor, measuring the same 76mm by 56mm by 17mm. The D2+ is manipulated mostly through its touchscreen interface, but controls for power, menu, button hold and volume remain on the top edge of the player. Audio, USB and peripheral connections are located on the left side of the D2+, and an SD/MMC/SDHC card slot is tucked away on the bottom.
The screen on the D2+ is a 64mm (2.5-inch) TFT LCD capable of displaying 1.6 million colours at a 320x240-pixel QVGA resolution. It's similar to the screen of the iPod classic in terms of both size and image quality.
The look and feel of the D2's graphic touchscreen interface has been overhauled for a cleaner, more modern look. Functionally, however, the interface of the D2+ is identical to that of the original D2, which means that scrolling through long lists of music takes patience, and some operations are better executed with a stylus than a clumsy finger.
One of the only hardware design tweaks that distinguishes the D2+ from the model we saw in 2007 is the absence of a metal trim along the front and back of the player. Instead, the D2+ uses an all-plastic design that, though lighter, feels slightly less substantial than the original.
The Cowon D2+ is no slouch when it comes to features, offering music, video and photo playback, along with an FM radio, voice/radio recorder, text reader and Flash player, as well as a tonne of little extras. If you're willing to shell out extra on cables, you can also enable features such as line-input recording and video output.
In spite of the extensive spec sheet, generous screen size and two years spent back on Cowon's drawing board, the best feature of the D2+ is the same feature we loved on the original D2: outstanding audio playback. In fact, one of the only concrete advantages that the D2+ offers over its predecessor is the inclusion of the latest BBE+ suite of audio-enhancement settings.
Beyond sound quality, the D2+ does a good job of handling music playback generally. The main music-playback screen shows off album artwork, track information, elapsed time, and settings such as repeat, shuffle and EQ. An easily accessible pop-up menu in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen lets you jump into the song browser, bookmark playback or add songs to a dynamic playlist.
Common music files such as MP3, WMA (including subscription tracks), Audible and WAV are all supported on the D2+, as well as boutique formats like FLAC and OGG. Support for AAC music files isn't offered, though. That was excusable when the original D2 came out in 2007, but it's harder to justify now that the popular AAC format can be played on devices beyond the . The latest MP3 players from Sony and Samsung are all compatible with the AAC format.
Another music feature we aren't thrilled about on the D2+ is the song browser, which is awkward to move through. Scrolling is helped by the ability to use the volume buttons on the top of the D2+ to move through lists, but the end result can't match the swiftness of Apple's scroll wheel. That said, we appreciate that the D2+ lets you browse your music by either ID3 tag or your own custom folder view, offering a degree of freedom not found in the iPod universe.
Video playback on the D2+ is unchanged from the days of the original D2, which seems like a lost opportunity on Cowon's part. To be fair, the D2's video features were far ahead of the curve in 2007, and the 64mm screen still trumps the iPod nano's relatively small 51mm (2-inch) screen.