Cowon Q5W DivX/GPS PMP Review (Verdict: Fantastic)

cowonq5.jpgThe Gadget: The Cowon Q5W PMP that has a feature list as long as my leg, which (and this is abbreviated) supports a bunch of video formats such as DivX and XviD, along with various nerd-friendly audio formats like OGG and FLAC. It's also got an optional GPS mount as well, in addition to 60GB of storage and a 720x480 display.


The Price: $US599 for 60GB, $US549 for 40GB

The Performance: Since the Cowon has so many features, any combination of which could be the deciding point for you, we'll go through each one in bullet point form.

• Movie playback: Fantastic. The screen is bright and crisp, and played back all the DivX/XviD files we threw at it. No stutter, no lag, no problem. It handles all aspect ratios just fine, expanding it to fit the generous 5-inch screen. Its built-in speakers are pretty good for watching stuff without headphones as well.

• Audio playback: It supports a laundry list of audio formats, and has a playback screen that's slightly too complex for a normal PMP. On the other hand, this isn't a normal PMP that's meant to be used with one finger. You definitely need the stylus.

• FM Radio: It does the job, but you need to have the headphones plugged in to hear anything, much like the first Sirius Stilettos.

• GPS Navigation: Fantastic. Just plug the unit into the dock, plug the dock into the cigarette adapter, and you're ready to go. The dock even has an FM transmitter so you can broadcast GPS sound, music, or movie (audio) over your car's speakers. The actual navigation is great too, with a pleasing female narrator and airplane-esque ding noise. The icons are large enough that you can hit with your finger instead of the stylus, and the UI has a 2D, 3D, and 2D/3D view. You can even listen to your on-board music while you're navigating as well.

• Photo Browser: It's a pretty decent photo browser, but where it really excels is its ability to read RAW files from various camera manufacturers. It ate up our Canon RAW files and displayed them at just about the same speed as the JPG files from our Samsung point and shoot. Good times. Very useful for photogs on the go.

• Internet connectivity: Because the whole device runs on Windows CE, you get Internet Explorer and MSN Messenger as part of the deal. As long as you're connected to Wi-Fi, you chat and browse with the onscreen keyboard just fine.

• Flaws: Although the Q5 is fast when you're inside an app (such as video or audio), getting around the device is kind of sluggish. You also have to make sure the task bar is unhidden in order to bring up the on-screen keyboard, something we had to get help on. The Wi-Fi antenna is also kind of flimsy, and you pretty much need to use the stylus for everything. Other than that, the only major flaw is that it's running on Windows CE, which is fine for some but may infuriate others.

The Verdict: The Q5W is super rich in features and plays back loads of video and audio files. It's fast, but kind of heavy, and is on the borderline of being pocketable (assuming you don't wear Bruce Springsteen jeans circa 1985). The GPS features are awesome for a PMP, and should make this a definite keeper in the car. If you're looking for a device that plays just about every file you have on the plane, on the train, or to work, you can do a whole lot worse than the Cowon Q5W. [Cowon]

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