It hasn't been a terribly exciting year for portable video players. Despite its relatively small screen, the iPod Touch is one of the few PVPs we've been giving an unqualified recommendation for in 2008. The Archos 5 is ambitious, but the battery life just isn't there; the Q5W is overpriced and bulky; and the A3 left us feeling kinda "meh." Thankfully, the Cowon O2 looks like it's going to close-out our year of PVP reviews on an upnote.
First off, let me mention the official U.S. MSRP for the O2, because I know there have been a few guesstimates floating around. The Cowon O2 will retail for $219 (8GB), $249 (16GB), and $299 (32GB), which you can pick up in either black or white. If 32GB isn't enough storage for you, keep in mind that the O2 includes a SDHC card slot for quickly swapping out content and increasing storage as you need it.
The second thing to notice about the O2 is its stupefying amount of file support. On the video end the O2 can play back AVI, WMV, ASF, MP4, MKV, OGM, DAT, MTV, DivX, XviD, MPEG-4, WMV 9/8/7, H.264, M-JPEG, and MPEG 1. The O2 is also agnostic when it comes to video resolution, accepting files all the way up to 1,280x720 at 30fps. For me, native format and resolution support is huge deal, because my home media collection is all over the place and few things test my patience more than re-encoding batches of video files.
Another huge deal for me is battery life, and Cowon is claiming that the O2 will get up to 8 hours of video playback (under "optimal" conditions) before surrendering. If Cowon's right, 8 hours of video playback would put the O2 far beyond the 4 hours of video life on the Archos 5, and ahead of the 6 hours of video on the iPod Touch and even the iPod Classic. Audio battery life isn't as impressive, with only 18 hours, but it's still ahead of the 12 hours of playback time on the Archos 5. Another thing to bear in mind is that all of the O2's competitors require a proprietary cable to recharge the battery, which can be a huge pain if you lose the cable while traveling. The O2 charges best when using the included AC adapter, but you can charge over its mini-USB connection, as well. … Read more