Lightning Review: Cowon A3 PMP With Incredible Audio/Video Format Support

The Gadget: Cowon's A3 portable music player, which supports about as many codecs as its bigger, beefier brother, the Q5W. The difference is the A3 can fit much easier into your pants.

The Price: $319 for 30GB, $349 for 60GB on Amazon

The Verdict: Just as great as the Q5W. The A3's got a 800x480 display which is fantastically watchable, and supports just about every codec anyone would imagine throwing at it: DivX 3.11/4/5/6, XviD, MPEG-4 SP/ASP, WMV 9/8/7, H.264 MP, M-JPEG, MPEG 1/2 for video, MPEG1 Layer 1/2/3, WMA, FLAC, OGG Vorbis, OGG FLAC, APPLELossless, AAC/AAC+, AC3, True Audio, Monkey Audio, MusePack, WavPack, G.726, PCM for audio.

Lightning Review: Cowon A3 PMP With Incredible Audio/Video Format Support

The video player is smooth (load times are a second or two), but navigation is a little wonky with the 4-way stick taking the place of a directional pad. It's not too bad, but occasional down-clicks for selecting something didn't get registered, or got registered as an up click instead.

Photo viewing is also sweet on the bright and ample display, and the transition time between photos is negligible. The only problem comes from the navigation stick and trying to cleanly press down on it without moving the stick in another direction as well.

Music support: great. Document (text reader) support: great. What's even cooler about the A3, that only some of you will use, is its recording feature. You can record Mobile TV (if you're not in the US), FM radio, microphone audio, or audio/video from an external source, such as your analog TV. These all worked as advertised, but like Archos units with DVR recording, it's unlikely that most people will be using the A3 for recording and consuming media, but mostly the latter. In the end, we can't give this full points because of the navigation system and the slightly sluggish UI, but if you're a rabid consumer of downloaded video, the Cowon A3 is extremely portable and has format support that can't be beat. [Amazon]