Our first impression of the Cowon Q5W is the large 5-inch touch screen that dominates the facade of the device, making it at once clean and minimalistic. The unsightly buttons and ports are all concealed along the outer frame of this portable media player (PMP), including some surprising options like a wireless remote control and a retractable WiFi antenna among others.
On top of the embedded Windows CE 5.0 Professional that is used on the Q5W, we found Cowon's own User Interface (UI). The layout of the UI is very easy to master and navigate around, once you get the hang of the two rows of function keys located on the left and right border of the screen. With the use of Windows CE, consumers should be greeted with a familiar interface similar to that found on their PCs, substantially reducing the learning curve.
This is crucial because while this device is meant mainly to be a multimedia device, Cowon has bolstered it with other functions. For example, consumers can view and edit documents on-the-fly with the on-screen keyboard. One can also chat with friends using a voice-enabled MSN Messenger client on the Cowon.
On the video front, the Q5W is truly in its element. The video player can handle almost all popular formats such as DivX, XviD, MPEG4, WMV and many more others. We were primarily impressed by its bright and crisp screen. Video playback was smooth and stutter-free, even while viewing a high speed scene from Top Gear.
Moving on to audio playback, consumers would be happily surprised with the extensive support, including the popular MP3, WMA, OGG and even lossless FLAC. Quality was excellent even at maximum volume with audio remaining crisp. If you are a fussy audiophile, tinkering around with the sound enhancement settings may rock your boat. The packaged earphones are not really to our preferences but it gets the job done anyhow.
While image viewing is a necessity feature on media players, the Q5W supports the RAW format which is rather rare. Consumers are able to connect their digital cameras directly to the Q5W and transfer images, eliminating the need for a PC. As an added bonus, the Q5W allows consumers to store and view the images immediately with the choice of a slideshow or thumbnail display.
To top things off, the Cowon Q5W has an impressive list of features such as an FM tuner, WiFi capability and Bluetooth connectivity options. Battery life was tested to run for a good 6 hours in video playback mode.
In our opinion the only deal breakers are the weight of the Cowon Q5W and its price tag. At a hefty 380 grams and its less than portable dimensions, the Q5W may not be something you want to carry for your daily commute. Meanwhile, the S$1060 price will certainly raise the bar on pricing for such a device, deterring casual users from considering it. For those who can afford to splurge, this is one of the more powerful, full featured PMPs available now.