Cowon iAudio U2 review: Cowon iAudio U2

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The Good Excellent sound quality; small and light; eye-catching looks; FM, line-in, and built-in mic recording; equalizer and several sound effects; USB 2.0 support; no drivers necessary in Windows XP or Mac OS X.

The Bad Limited recording options; average battery life; no photo or video features.

The Bottom Line The stylish, flash-memory Cowon iAudio U2 crams great sound quality, an FM radio, and line-in recording into a tiny package.

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7.7 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 6
  • Performance 8

JetAudio's magnificent U2

Editors' note:
The numeric rating for this product has been changed since the review's original publication. The reason for this is simply the general improvement of technology over time. In order to keep our ratings fair and accurate, it's sometimes necessary to downgrade the ratings of older products relative to those of newer products.

The folks at JetAudio have a bona fide hit on their hands with the tiny and sleek iAudio U2. While its flash-memory predecessor, the iAudio 4, was a little dull in the looks department, the U2 boasts stylish and elegant looks, an FM radio, line-in and built-in mic recording, and--if you can afford it--as much as 2GB of memory. While we wish the U2 had more recording options, we heartily recommend this small wonder for music lovers who want their tunes in a teeny, tiny package.

Let's just say it: JetAudio's iAudio U2 is gorgeous, easily one of the best-looking flash-memory players we've tested. Our 1GB black-and-silver review model (256MB Ruby Red, 512MB Ocean Blue, and the new black 2GB flavors are also available) was sleek, shiny, and eye-catching; we literally had strangers asking us for a look. The elegant, rounded corners and the finely threaded silver ring circling the five-way navigational control give the U2 the regal bearing of a Porsche, vs. the flashy lines of the Corvette-like iRiver iFP-790.

Measuring just 2.9 by 1 by 0.7 inches and weighing a mere 1.2 ounces, the U2 is even smaller and lighter than the already tiny iAudio 4 and fits easily in a jeans pocket or around your neck using the included lanyard. The included plastic black-and-gray carrying case sports plenty of openings for the U2's controls but looks a bit cheesy compared to the player itself.

The U2's 128x64-pixel display may look small, but it manages to cram in plenty of information, including artist, album, and track names; time elapsed, time remaining, and a progress bar; graphic music levels; file format and bit-rate info; the current repeat mode; and a battery-life indicator. Unfortunately, we have bad news for fans of the iAudio 4's cool, multicolor background lights: You won't find them on the U2. Blue is all you get.

We love the U2's minimalist but intuitive controls. Unlike other flash-memory players that are riddled with hard-to-use buttons, dials, and controls, the U2 keeps it simple with the five-way navigation control, a record/A-B repeat button, a play/pause button, and a Hold slider. You'd think finding all of the U2's menus, modes, and options would be tough with so few controls, but we were zooming though the player's features within minutes, no manual needed.