Monday, May 31, 2010

Cowon J3 Review. Update

I've had my Cowon J3 for awhile and thought I'd share some of the deeper features that make it such a great player. My initial review (with photos) can be found here. These are some of the nicer and/or less obvious features that make the Cowon J3 an award winner.

Added home pages: You can create as many as 5 pages for the 1st home screen (icon array) style. This hopefully indicates more apps/games may be coming for the J3. Notice the gray bars at the top. The 5th one is highlighted to indicate the current page. You can't have a page with no icons on it or it will disappear. To move icons to a new page first hold down on one to select it, then drag it to the right side of the screen. New pages are always added on the right.
Play/Pause Tab: The 1st home screen style also has a music Pause/Play bar on bottom of the screen. It reminds you what the current song is. Tap once to pause. Tap again to start playing. It is visible no matter which (first style) home page you are on.
·
Additional, undocumented codec support: MP4 (video) and M4A/AAC (audio) files will also play on the J3, despite not being listed in the official specifications. You won't get full album art support, but it's nice that you can drag (non-DRMed) songs from your iTunes music folder right to the J3. and they will be playable. Not every MP4 movie I tried would play, but most did.
·Unicode character support: Not perfect, but characters from Arabic and other languages do display. Still work to be done though for languages that read from right to left. A sample of Arabic text in an MP3 file name displayed backwards. The letters and cover art of that file did display though. On my Zune HD the letters appeared as blocks and the album art did not display.

Transitions: There are two slide show transitions for the photo app, as well as variable timing between slides. Notice the icons right of the blue bar in the photo above. Pressing the lower one will initiate fade-in of photos during slide shows. The upper one initiates sliding in of the next photo from the right during shows. You also can make any image, even zoomed in sections of an image, be your home screen wallpaper. To do so, tap the 2nd icon down (on the right side in the image above).

Bookmarks: You can create up to 256/file bookmarks per file. You can bookmark audio and video files, as well as the percentage you are into a document in the document reader. In the Music player (above) tap the top blue bar, then the + icon to see the Favorites and Bookmark icons. Tap the Bookmark icon to add a bookmark for the current song and position in the song.·
Widgets: The third menu style has an array of Widgets to choose from. They can be installed on any of three screens:
  • Clock 1 (analog)
  • Clock 2 (digital)
  • Brightness (car headlights)
  • Battery level (graphic)
  • Alarm
  • Quick Player
  • Memo Pad
  • Calendar
  • RECorder
  • Memory indicator
  • Photo Zone
Extensive video variables. This is a list of the variables you can change from within the video player. I've never seen a video player application so thorough in any other device I've reviewed. From the user manual:
  • Sync adjustment: Adjust sync between the subtitle and video file by 0.5 sec.
  • Subtitle color: Select the subtitle color.
  • Subtitle height: Set the subtitle height.
  • Subtitle size: Set the subtitle size.
  • Subtitle selection: Select Subtitle 1/ Subtitle 2/All. * This option is used when several languages are available for subtitle use.
  • Subtitle On/Off
  • Preview videos 3/screen, 6/screen, or in a text list.
  • Choose between black and shaded background for preview panels.
  • Add a video to your Favorites list.
  • Add up to 256 bookmarks to each video file.
  • Select screen aspect ratio displayed from Full Screen (16:9), 4:3, Original Size and Original Ratio.
  • Set Brightness Level (7 steps).
  • Turn TV-Out on/off. (requires accessory cable)
  • Screen Quality: Select between clear/soft video.
  • Set the brightness of the menu bar displayed on the video.
  • Boundary: Select to Play one file/Play files in the selected folder/Play all files.
  • Once/Repeat: Select to Play once/Repeat the tracks in the specified range.
  • Playback Speed: Set the playback speed. * It can be set within the range between 50%~150%.
  • Pitch correction: Turn pitch correction On/Off. * Pitch correction is supported when playback speed is not 100%.
  • Set JetEffect 3.0 (sound effects).
  • During the playback, preview the video by elapsed time. Select a Preview thumbnail to play the video from the selected sector.
  • Capture and save video screen images.
  • A-B Repeat: Set the playback boundary to repeat.
In addition to the surprise addition of MP4 video support, the J3 also plays AVI, WMV, and ASF files. The 3.3" 16:9 AMOLED screen is perfect for video enjoyment. You won't find a better device that still fits in a shirt pocket to take with you anytime you have a few hours to kill. The music features are clever and convenient. Video and photos are beautiful. Simply put, the Cowon J3 is nearly perfect.

4D

Check out Cowon's D3.  My review of it can be found HERE.
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65 comments:

  1. Very nice :) Thanks for the update.

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  2. Great review and thanks for the update. But like many other members who have queried about the unofficial mp4 support i wanted to know whether the H.264 'codec' is supported or is it just the mp4 files (which is based on H.264). Can you try out some mkv files on it and confirm?

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  3. Bhupati, My J3 doesn't see (won't list) MKV files that are on it. So no, it does not play MKV files at the moment.

    I have no way to determine the underlying codec used in the MP4 files I have. I'm sure that is the reason some play and some don't.

    4D

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  4. Try downloding MediaInfo and check the file to see what codec is used.

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  5. Thanks for that tip, Anonymous. MediaInfo shows The offending files use AVC for video codec. Files that work use MPEG-4. The offenders all were YouTube MP4 downloads.

    On a side note, The Samsung M1 plays ALL the files.

    4D

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  6. zune hd vs cowon j3 vs samy m1 on sound quality.
    Choose!

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  7. My ears aren't good enough to tell the difference. That's why I don't usually mention audio quality in my reviews. Thanks for asking though.

    4D

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  8. Can it play ALAC files?

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  9. Sorry. If I had a sample ALAC file I would test it. Not mentioned in the specs so I doubt it.

    4D

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  10. Have you tested out the Creative Zen? I'm trying to decide between the Creative Zen and the Cowon J3. I've checked out the features on both, read reviews, but I just can't decide. I'd really like to hear your opinion. What would you suggest?

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  11. Zen? Yes: http://4dthinker.blogspot.com/2008/10/creative-zen-4gb-my-review.html

    Between the two? No question. The J3 is superior in every way but price. You get what you pay for though, and some extra with the J3.

    4D

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  12. I am thinking to buy the Cowon J3.16Gb , I am in to sound quality
    I was very angry when my samsung yp-p3 32Gb yepp (bought on Ebay) went faulty,had screen problem, and useless in the end.
    So no more Samsung for me I spend over $400.00 dollars to used for just over 1 year.

    rv

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  13. I have two questions - 1. Can one hookup the J3 to external speakers? 2. Can one load audio books in the J3?

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  14. 1. Yes. Via Bluetooth or using a patch cable from the headphone jack.

    2. Yes. If they are in MP3 format, or AudioBook files if your J3 has been "authorized" with the desktop Audiobook client.

    4D

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  15. Thanks 4D. What do you recommend for good quality external speakers for the J3? Also, will the wiring in the cable to the external speakers act as a antenna if one were to use the J3 FM radio?

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  16. Yes, the patch cable will work as antenna. They come in different lengths, and some lengths may work better than others. I've reviewed several small portable speakers sets, but none has sounded as good as what you can buy intended to be computer speakers. Look for something with 3" or 4" drivers, and a 6" or larger sub for lower frequencies. Most little sets have at best a 2" speaker. They sell many that run on batteries and most have line-in ports.

    4D

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  17. Thanks again 4D.

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  18. Is this the new cowon J3 32gb you reviewed???
    And if so do you consider it the best portable mp3 to buy right now or do you have any other recommendations for a high quality mp3 player?
    Thanks,
    Herman

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  19. Yes and no. Mine is the 16gb J3. Right now the J3 is the best player for the money in my opinion.

    4D

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  20. I put an mp4 video and it wont read?
    Any guesses?

    Thanks.

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  21. The J3 won't play every type of mp4 video file. Of files I've tried MediaInfo shows the offending files use AVC for video codec. Files that work use MPEG-4. The offenders all were YouTube MP4 downloads. You may also find that the audio codec used in mp4 videos matters too. Cowon doesn't claim the J3 will play MP4 files. I only stated it does because mine does play some, but not all, the mp4 videos I have to test.

    4D

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  22. Hi, I would like to ask if you had tried to put lyrics and if they can be displayed properly on the J3. Thanks.

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  23. I haven't messed with lyrics, bre. You'll have to try lyrics out for yourself. Text displays fine on the J3 though.

    4D

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  24. Thank you for your in-depth review of the J3.:) I just have a question, does it have an English dictionary on it? And does it have to be downloaded from a website or is it already pre loaded?

    Thanks!

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  25. The dictionary file didn't come with my last firmware update. I believe it is only available on the Korean version (Korean to english), and the file(s) required require a Korean account to download.

    4D

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  26. Hi 4D.
    Thanks for your very in depth and extremely helpful reviews. Can you tell me something about the dictionary feature in this device? Can I make my own list of words to add to the existing words and expand the word list?

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  27. Sorry. BWW. I have not played with the dictionary. It requires downloading a database file from the Korean Cowon web site, and is mainly to translate Korean to English and vice versa. Ask the same question in AnythingButiPod's Cowon J3 forum and you may get a knowledgable answer.

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  28. Just as an FYI, since I've found conflicting reviews, the J3 supports drm from at least Rhapsody according to Cowon Tech Support. When mine arrives in the mail this coming week I will let you know if it does (providing someone hasn't already, I'm not reading every comment)

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  29. Hi Rhett,

    Any updates on the status of Rhapsody support on the J3 and how well it works? I Appreciate the fedback.

    Thanks

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  30. Does it work with AVI files?

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  31. Yes, it will play AVI files. Check out the first part of my J3 review.

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  32. When someone talks about high quality portable audio/video player, the name that first comes to mind is Cowon. The iPods may be popular but they cannot match the performance of Cowon players. The J3 is the latest media player from the Korean brand and comes loaded with features such as a large, capacitive AMOLED touchscreen display, FM radio, Bluetooth stereo headphone support, expandable memory and TV out functionality. It combines all this with Cowon's traditional high quality audio/video playback.
    Xbox hard drive

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  33. Thanks for the awesome review. I didn't need much selling on the J3 and it will be my fourth PMP/MP3 player from Cowon.

    I was disappointed by some of their offerings between 2008 - 2009(except the D2) but I think the J3 is going to make up very nicely for that and allow me to sell some older PMP's I no longer use. Loved the potential of the S9 but the shape just wouldn't grow on me....

    Thanks again for the insightful reviews!

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  34. I've just got my J3 and loving it, but do you know which document files it support? Tried PDF but unfortunately could not view it. Also, which comics file type it supports? Thank you for your excellent review and kindness to answer all questions! JK

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  35. The J3 only supports simple TXT files. The Comics app will open .JPG files.

    4D

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  36. When I have loaded music on to my new J3 none of the album art shows up, despite it all being there and visible on my computer in Windows Media Player. Do you please have any suggestions as to how I can get this album art onto my J3?

    Thank you

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  37. Without knowing what format or codec your music is in, I suggest adding the album art into each music album folder on the J3. Name the album image file "cover.jpg", and the J3 will display it when any file in that folder is played.

    4D

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  38. Thank you very much for your review. The J3 sounds like my next player. I'm using a iPod nano 4G at the moment and I think it's time for a change. The next step will be to buy some decent earphones. Now I'm just using koss porta pro and creative ep 630. They are ok but not really premium ;-)

    I have one question: does anybody know how the J3 will work with a macintosh computer? I'm not planning to use it with iTunes. I would like to fill it simply by drag and drop. Will it work?

    J.D.

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  39. J.D.,

    Macs can cause problems with almost every device except iPods. It WILL work, but you'll need to make sure the J3 is properly ejected before unplugging it, and don't let the Mac format it or it'll never work on a PC again. The number one reason people complain about their devices loosing memory (storage space) if because the files system got corrupted when the pulled the plug from a Mac computer.

    4D

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  40. Hey 4D,

    thanks for your fast reply... So I guess you're using a Mac sometimes?
    By the way: your blog is fantastic... I haven't found anything like that in german (I am from germany)... But I have one last question: If you would want a clear sound and great multimedia (video, radio) what would your choose? The J3 or the Archos 43 Internet Tablet? I've read your review of the 43 too and it sounds great... can it match the sound of the J3?

    Greatings

    J.D.

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  41. J.D.,

    Yes, I have a Mac. Primarily for testing such things with. The 43 does gapless playback, plays all the same codecs, and provides all the info you might want about the songs. The J3 lets you sort by more categories, has a better EQ and presets, and a radio that the 43 doesn't have. Video is a little better on the 43, but mainly because the screen is larger.

    4D

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  42. What a thorough and helpful review written in easy-to-understand language that even the least tech-savvy neophyte (like me) can grasp. From your reviews, it seems like the J3 is the one for me. A classical enthusiast, I need a player that will play gapless FLACS and APE files with removable storage. Your coverage of the Cowon made the decision a real no-brainer.

    One quick question - like your extensive coverage wasn't enough - is there any PMP that will play gapless FLACS & APE files from CUE files?

    Thanks again!

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  43. I had to look up what CUE files were, and at this point don't know of any players that know how to read them either.

    Interesting tech strategy though. I'll have to pay more attention I guess. Thanks for visiting.

    4D

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  44. Hi,
    Your site (you?) a gem...
    Here is one for your hammer: I practically just need audio capability. Is it D2+ or J3 filtering in price as well.
    Thanks, George

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  45. I don't have a D2+ or D2, George. Looking at the specs for it on CowonGlobal.com,I think it will probably be plenty of player for you. You get gapless playback with the J3, but at its current price the D2+ seems like the best bargain to me.

    4D

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  46. Hi,

    I'm debating between getting a Samsung M1 and a Cowon J3. I was wondering which one runs faster/smoother in terms of navigating through the UI, especially with a large music library.

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  47. I'd call the UIs a tie. Both are very smooth. The M1 is a better video player, and the J3 is better at music. After that the M1 has more features, including games and bluetooth capabilities. The J3 UI takes a little getting used to, but once over that hump performs as well as the M1 UI.

    Hope that helps.
    4D

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  48. Just wanted to check back and say thank you for your help in making my selection (see my earlier comments above). Bought the J3 and am extremely happy with it. I cannot comment on the interface and many other of the features, but it plays just about every file and the sound is fabulous. I am sure I will continue to discover what this machine can do but if it wasn't for you exhaustive review I'd be doing a lot more reading. Thanks again and here's hoping you have a happy, healthy and prosperous 2011.

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  49. I bought a J3 on the strength of the glowing reports it received here. I'm still waiting on it. What headphones would you recommend to get the best out of its audio capabilities?
    Patrick

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  50. Headphones are a personal choice. If you want the best audio, skip the included buds and move right to a good over-ear headphone. I enjoy my Sennheiser HD 595s, but they are far from portable. Try the Panasonic RP-HJE900 Zirconia earbuds for portable quality. Expensive though.

    4D

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  51. Does it support Lyrics display? .lrc files attached to the lyrics...

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  52. According to the specs, for lyrics it supports LDB 1.0 and 2.0. That is all I know about lyrics as I don't use them.

    4D

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  53. I am considering buying J3. Can you please confirm that if I line it out to a good quality (not computer) home speaker system (eg Bose etc), it will still maintain its superior SQ over a iPod? Or is the superiority limited to listening through earphones?

    I know you may not have compared the two like to like, but want you to make a studied guess for me, please (even with caveats).

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  54. The J3 does not have dedicated line-out. It has Line-in for recording external sources on the J3. The J3's Output from headphone jack is cleaner, with less noise that output from my iPod's headphone jack. It is also more powerful (louder) than the output from my Touch.

    4D

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  55. I have a J3 and was trying to use the best library tool to manage the music on the J3/Computer through syncing. I have a mix of formats - MP3, WAV and FLAC. The last format seems to give me problems .. I read up that this is an issue, but do you think Cowon will fix it? Are there any tools out there that can smooth the way for a reasonable amatur to control what is on the J3?

    (I am going to try how that album art works! lots of albums seem to just be a "treble clef" moniker and not the art...
    Thanks for your site - really v good.

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  56. Album art will only show up with MP3s. For FLAC and WAV put the appropriate art file into each album folder and rename it cover.jpg. It should then show up when any file in that folder is played. I doubt there will be any more updates for the J3.

    4D

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  57. Does the J3 has a better sound quality then the Ipod touch ? i would like to get either one but places more emphasis on sound.

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  58. Any Review on the Creative Ziio ? I try to search in your blog but couldn't see one.

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  59. Yes, the J3 has better sound than the Touch. Far better, although you'll need great headphone to hear the difference.

    4D

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  60. I won't be getting the Ziio Tablet. Creative's Zen Touch-2 has access to the same app market though. Check it out. Search my blog for Creative.

    4D

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  61. hey 4D thinker,
    i like my cowon j3 but there is one tremendously annoying problem. my cowon only understands the ".fla" format rather than ".flac". i know they are the same FLAC formatand the only difference is the 4 letter, but my cowon j3 cannot recognize it and i am forced to manually erase the "C" from every track. i am not willing to go through ALL my songs just to fix this problem, and it doesnt seem like there is a way to do it automatically. im leaving for a trip in two days and i would love to have my cowon j3 with me, but it does not seem likely that i will manually fix each track in the time i have. this problem is really bothering me, and it seems as though there is no way around it. im thinking of maybe just returning it for a new one even though ive had it for almost a year now (barely touched it) any help would be much appreciated.
    Thanks a bunch,
    Daniel.

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  62. Daniel,

    My J3 does fine with .flac files. Using the folder view to locate the *.flac folder I installed a tap on any of the music .flac file open the now playing screen and the songs play fine. All I can suggest is that your filesname may be too long, or the J3 could stand a reset and database rebuild to find your FLAC files.

    4D

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  63. I know i iknow its been a while since you got a comment on here but i just wanted to say thank you for an awesome review. Really THANK YOU and in a way im disapointed a little. The irony about all this is i dont want anything else than that Cowon J3 LOL. You bast**d LOL. So sooner than the end of april 2012 ill have mine in hand.

    Silicon case - Rearth reinke - awesome and soon to be bought

    Iluv isp120 - hard case with speakers - another good idea

    Klipsch Refereence S4 earbuds - no not the image S4 with their crappy cords.

    And now for a question you dont really have a say in the matter after ill be spending so much money on this toy LOL im jokin but here goes:

    Will a 32gb MicroSD class 10 card work in the Cowon J3?

    Thank you for reviewing the J3 you really did an awesome job. How about a youtube review with everything stated in this review? I hate reading lol but i did like to read your review!

    Cam - Or the french guy in Canada ;)

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  64. Cam,

    Thanks for the comments. Yes, any good 32gb microSD card should work fine in the J3. I have one in mine.

    4D

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