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Hands-on with the Cowon A3

Psst. Hey, videophiles. Feast your eyes on the latest gem from South Korea -- it's the Cowon A3. Get out your codec checklists because this one supports H.264

If you've been keeping tabs on Crave, you may have noticed we're very fond of Cowon's players and for good reason. These South Korean gems sound awesome and have equally fantastic features. And it wasn't long ago that we reviewed the wonderful Q5W, which scored an excellent eight out of ten.

But today our fingers are pressing new buttons, and even new nipples -- that's navigational nipples to you, cheeky. It's the Cowon A3 -- the non-identical twin brother born from the same technologically advanced South Korean giga-womb. In many ways, we're loving it even more than the Q5W, mainly because it plays 720p video, will output over component to an HD TV, records DVD-quality video from any source -- including HD-DVD players -- and encodes it in real time.

At about £250 for the 30GB version (a 60GB model is available at around £320), it's got massive potential, not to mention an impressive codec library, such as: MP3, WMA, FLAC, OGG, Apple Lossless, AAC, AC3, True Audio, Monkey's Audio, MusePack, WavPack, WAV, AVI, WMV, ASF, MP4, MKV, MPEG, VOB, DAT, DivX, XviD and MPEG-4. But the real killer codec over the Q5W is that it supports H.264 -- the Holy Grail format missing from the previous Cowon behemoth, and a costly upgrade in the Archos 605 WiFi.

Oh, but that's something that is missing from the A3 -- Wi-Fi. It's no major issue as this is without question a dedicated video powerhouse, but it's something to bear in mind if you're torn between this, the Q5W and the 605 WiFi.

Using the navigation nipple is fiddly and annoying, but you will probably get used to it, considering you'll be looking at stunning video quality on the terrific 800x480-pixel screen. Outputting this to a TV gives seriously impressive results. You can also drag .VOB files from a DVD straight onto the A3 for playback -- no need to rip the disc into a compatible format. How good is that?

Our full review and video review will be online very soon, so be sure to check back. Videophiles: this may be worth selling non-essential organs for. Does eBay have an 'innards' category? No, 'other health care' will have to do. -Nate Lanxon

Update: Read our full Cowon A3 review.