Hands-on with the Cowon Q5

No Christmas should be complete without a big fat do-it-all PMP to play with. We took Cowon's new Q5 on the road and fell instantly in love -- Archos, your time may be up

For many, Christmas is a time spent with family. If you're an orphan, it's a time spent wishing you had one. But for Crave, it was a time spent not only with family, but also with Cowon's new Q5 PMP. It's a hard disk-based media player, encased in matte black metal, boasting a 127mm (5-inch) touch-sensitive screen and a plethora of features that not only puts it on a par with the excellent Archos 605 WiFi, but possibly way beyond it in terms of functionality.

Its primary function is obviously video; with its massive screen, support for industry-standard formats like DivX, Xvid, MPEG-4 and WMV to name but a few, it's capable of displaying some very high-quality movies. Audio support is similarly impressive, with MP3, WMA, FLAC, APE, OGG and WAV et al compatible as standard, and a built-in speaker will let you enjoy this out loud if you need to.

The Q5 is built on Windows CE Pro 5.0 and most of your Microsoft Office documents, such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint, should open just fine. Wi-Fi connectivity lets you use Internet Explorer to browse the Web, Bluetooth 2.0 lets you listen to the Q5 wirelessly, and both composite and component video-out sockets let you hook all of this functionality up to your TV or HDTV for full-screen viewing of movies and photos.

Using the Q5 was a great experience from start to finish. As the train belting up the country away from London, we sat watching Jeremy Clarkson on a screen significantly larger than the iPod touch in our pocket. Over the festive break, the whole family watched a previous Christmas captured into an hour-long Xvid movie file on a big TV. TV-out is always on so there's no need to mess around with any settings if you don't want to.

But not everything's perfect. For one thing, the Q5 can get hot enough to melt lead, especially when transferring large files from a PC. Also, the Web browser has compatibility issues with some Web sites; CNET.co.uk rendered like a Picasso classic. Web-wise it's no contender for the Opera-powered Archos 605 WiFi or the iPod touch, so if your main requirement is Web browsing ability, you might want to keep looking.

It's very hard to sum up just how capable the Q5 is, though. We've not even touched on some of the advanced audio and video configurations available to you -- that'll have to wait for our full review, which you can expect very soon.

Until then we're confident that unless Web browsing is an absolute must-have, the new Cowon PMP will impress. Our only major gripe is that £399 for a 40GB version (or £429 for 60GB) is extremely costly, considering the 160GB Archos 605 Wi-Fi is just £299. But if you're the person who needs Intel Core 2 Extreme CPUs and twin Nvidia 8800 GTX GPUs in your PC, this is set to be the hardcore, do-it-all media player for you.

Update: A full review of the Cowon Q5W is now available on the site. -Nate Lanxon

 

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