Editors' note: The editors' rating for the Cowon D2 has been lowered from an 8.3 to a 7.3 to better reflect its value as of March 10, 2009. Cowon has also launched a new model of this MP3 player (the D2+), which is covered in a separate review.
Cowon may be a bit of an underdog in the U.S. market in terms of sales, but this Korean company sure does know how to make a quality MP3 player. The latest device to arrive on U.S. shores--or at least, in the CNET offices--is the Cowon D2, a solid and compact player dominated by a 2.5-inch screen. I was able to get my hands on a nearly identical preview model of the D2 at CES 2007 but just recently received the final U.S. version with that ever-important DRM support. Other than that welcome addition, the latest unit isn't much different from the one we previewed in January; it still has a nice, high-quality feel to it and offers a beautiful touch screen as well as loads of features, naturally. That said, you can expect to pay a bit of a premium for this high-end MP3 player. At $189.99 for the 2GB version and $219.99 for the 4GB model, the D2 costs more than the Creative Zen V Plus, which offers similar features but twice the memory for comparable prices.
Photos of the Cowon D2 really don't do the player justice--it has such a nice feel to it, so we definitely recommend some hands-on time with the player before you pass final judgment. The sleek body is wrapped in a brushed-metal border, where you can find some tactile controls: a power/hold slider, volume buttons, and a menu key. On the left edge, hidden beneath a flap, are two USB ports: one standard mini for syncing with the computer and one proprietary for use with the included wallwart power adapter. The bottom of the device features an SD card expansion slot for adding more memory. At 3x2.2x0.6 inches, the player is pleasantly compact overall, though it feels a bit weighty at 2.1 ounces.