Cowon's D3 Plenue media player runs the Android operating system, supports a tonne of audio and video file formats, packs 32GB of storage space, and offers Wi-Fi connectivity, so you can use it to access the Web. But, priced at around £280, it's slightly more expensive than Apple's 32GB iPod touch, which costs around £250, so is it worth the extra moolah?
The D3 looks more like an Android smart phone than a traditional MP3 player. Its all-black case is fairly dull, although Cowon has added a tapered edge at the bottom where the three touch-sensitive controls sit.
The front is dominated by the 3.7-inch capacitive touchscreen, but there are a few physical buttons around the edges, including three playback controls on the right-hand side that sit above a volume rocker switch. The left-hand edge houses a power button that doubles as a lock switch and, beneath this, there's a microSD card slot. This allows you to add up to another 32GB of storage on top of the built-in 32GB.
Annoyingly, the 3.5mm headphone jack is positioned on the bottom of the device, which makes it awkward to put the D3 in a pocket. The D3 also uses a proprietary USB port for syncing with a PC. It doesn't charge over USB, though, so you can't easily top it up from a laptop when you're travelling.
On the plus side, the proprietary USB port can be used to output video over HDMI if you purchase the optional adaptor lead, which costs £9 or so. Our model didn't come with this lead, so we couldn't test this feature out.
The 3.7-inch touchscreen has a resolution of 480x800 pixels. It uses AMOLED technology rather than the TFT LCD tech found on the likes of the iPod touch. AMOLED screens can be easier on battery life as they don't use a backlight. Instead the material itself is light-emitting.
The D3's screen is excellent. Colours look rich and natural, and the display doesn't suffer from the bluish tinge that afflicts some AMOLED screens we've seen on other devices. It also produces superbly deep black levels, which helps images to look suitably high-contrast and cinematic.
The device's video-format support is also impressive. Our sample had no problem playing a range of Xvid, DivX and HD MKV files.
The D3 doesn't drop the ball when it comes to audio, either. It delivers very clean and precise sound, with crisp highs and deep bass levels. Format support is also excellent, with even less popular options, such as Flac and Ogg, catered for.
Battery life isn't bad either. Cowon says the D3 will run for 21 hours when playing audio, and 10 hours when playing video.
The D3 has recently been updated to run Android 2.3 Gingerbread. The software has been heavily modified by Cowon. The icons look completely different and apps are accessed by sliding your finger across a bar at the bottom of the screen. Cowon has also replaced the standard music player with its own offering, but this is even less intuitive that the normal Android one, which is an astonishing feat.
Cowon has installed a few additional apps, including one for Twitter, but adding extra apps yourself isn't easy. The device doesn't support the Android Market, so there's no easy way to download new apps onto it. Instead you have to manually download APK packages and then add them to a specific folder on the device. It's about as user-friendly as a Rubik's Cube.
The more you use the D3, the more the limitations of its software become obvious. We came across a number of annoying bugs. For example, we couldn't get the device to connect to our Gmail account -- something that we've never had an issue with on any other Android device.
The D3 also randomly refused to accept touch input on occasions, and, when we used live wallpapers, the screen would start to flash with a strobe effect after being taken out of standby mode. Finally, the D3 would randomly rescan the media library from time to time, causing playback to freeze.
The Cowon D3 Plenue certainly has its strengths. It sounds great, offers excellent video and audio support, and packs a highly impressive AMOLED screen. But its lack of support for the Android Market, high price, and buggy software mean it's difficult to recommend.
Edited by Charles Kloet