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The Cowon A3 is the successor to the moderately successful A2 and is the less feature filled companion to the Cowon Q5W.

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Fantastic screen quality

6 agree

Can act as a USB host

5 agree

Video output AND recording

4 agree

Best format support

3 agree

Natively supports open source codecs such as ogg & flac.

3 agree

HD video support

3 agree

Audio quality of the highest class

2 agree

The only true "iPod Killer"

2 agree
  • Only 3 words are allowed.

Expensive ! (80GB version almost twice the price of an 80GB ipod)

4 agree

Annoying joystick control

3 agree

Poor menu design

2 agree

Chunky body design

2 agree
  • Only 3 words are allowed.


The Cowon A3 is the successor to the moderately successful A2 and is the less feature filled companion to the Cowon Q5W. Where the Q5W offers a multitude of features bordering on a full fledged computer Cowon kept the A3 to its portable media player roots and significantly upgraded the media capabilities. The A3 uses Texas Instrument's DaVinci chipset which decodes a bevy of formats including HD video and MKV container. Cowon also includes other features such as video and audio recording to stay competitive with the other players in this price range.

Spec list
  • 4" screen with 800x480 resolution that displays 16 million colors
  • native HD video decoding, up to 720p resolution
  • line-in recording (with uncompressed FLAC support)
  • SD video recording
  • video output including HD output
  • integrated speakers and microphone
  • View office file formats
  • 30GB - $349 | 60GB - $399
  • Battery life: 7 hours video | 9 hours audio
  • Video formats: AVI, WMV, ASF,MP4, MATROSKA(MKV), OGM, MPG/MPEG, VOB, DAT,MTV DivX 3.11/4/5/6, XviD, MPEG-4 SP/ASP, WMV 9/8/7, H.264 MP, M-JPEG, MPEG 1/2
  • Audio formats: MPEG1 Layer 1/2/3, WMA, FLAC, OGG Vorbis, AAC/AAC+, AC3, BSAC, True Audio, WavPack, G.726, CM

Despite the relatively large amount of formats supported the A3 cannot play back files that are encrypted with any form of DRM, for both video and audio. Furthermore, as of firmware (1.18) h264 support is not functional, though Cowon is promising improved support in future firmwares. Video recording can be done through composite or S-Video to capture standard definition video, but HD video capture is not supported.

Latest firmware is V1.24

The unit can be charged through USB or the included power adapter. The USB port doubles as a data transfer port, not only between the A3 and your computer, but also between other devices and the A3. Cowon adds Universal Mass Storage reading which means that many digital cameras, portable storage drives, and even other media players can connect to the A3 and transfer data back and forth.

In the box
  • Component cables
  • Composite cables
  • Hand strap
  • USB 2.0 cable
  • Earphones
  • Cowon A3 unit
  • Intallation CD, Quick Guide
  • AC power adapter
Post Review
09/05/2012 05:41

I had the A2 and A3. Awsome devices at a time when touch screen mobiles were only just coming out. Unfortunantly the time of the PMP is almost over. I have a galaxy S3 which can do everything the A3 could do and more in a slimmer body and make phone calls.

04/11/2009 02:07

I could write a few pages on this player, but I'll keep it short. This is a portable video player for those who don't want to waste all their time transcoding to iPod/Zune/whatever format. Drag and drop. My personal use includes:

~playing divx/xvid movies: several hundred played, only a few with trouble. I usually keep 30+ movies on the A3 at a time to choose from.
~playing wma, mp4, m4v, mpg: a ton of youtube clips played
~playing mp3: If you want to play DRM files...nevermind. This is primarily a video player, but the sound quality is downright amazing. You shouldn't even touch the EQ or bass boost settings... don't need them.
~viewing/backing up jpg and NEF (raw Nikon images): great for backing up files on long trips from a memory card reader, or for checking the image quality (the screen is terrific).
~transferring files from USB thumbdrives on the go
~playing videos on standard and HD-TVs without setting up a laptop or spending hours transcoding.
~recording tv shows I would otherwise miss
~copying old VHS movies
~getting looks of amazement from people when I can do all this without a laptop.

Now it ain't perfect. But if you're like me and have hundreds of movies on your computer and want a high resolution video player/recorder on the go, it's getting close. I'm a little let down that Cowon didn't provide the strong firmware support they did for the A3. But I have never regretted buying this player. I waited a few months for it's arrival and got it in Fall '07. It's still playing fine now, with enough battery for 2 full movies. (3 when new, I've used this a TON though) I've even had water spilt on it, hasn't died.

Minor Downsides:
~The audio quality on this tops everything else portable I have seen, and the EQ display is awesome. But it's slow to skip/play and navigation isn't the easiest. This is primarily a video player. (Although it's good enough I don't carry my iPod anymore).
~Slightly heavy - that power comes from somewhere though
~Has slight trouble viewing large images while playing music - has been improved on since previous reviews
~Doesn't open PDF files without conversion - but text files it does :D
~Still can't play all VOB or fullsize h264 video properly (if you don't know what this means, don't worry about it)


~"Also once you play a song, you get the music info screen which looks nice. But once you press 'back' you can't get back to that song info screen! Duh." Quartermass is incorrect, you press BACK twice more and it shuffles back to the now playing screen.
~"Proprietary USB file transfer cable." - No, it is not. Both the standard mini USB cable types works just fine.
~The usb transfer speed is 6-8mb/s. 2 minutes to transfer a CD's worth of data. This is slower than most memory cards and USB drives, but still acceptable.
~FM receiver can record with great quality if headphones are used to act as an antenna.
~If the video was encoded properly to begin with, this will play "real video" and cartoons as clear as crystal. I've had jittery frames while playing divx and mpeg videos that were poorly encoded however.

The price has dropped over $100 since I bought mine, and I know Archos has been working really hard to beat Cowon, so I can't say this is still the best player available. At the time though - You had to pay $150 for extras for the mid-range Archos players to do what the A3 could do out of the box, so consider that when researching.

05/31/2008 05:48

The VOB side of it doesn't actually work. I tried my own DVDs (and Region 2/1 DVDs) that I've made and they don't play. A3 claims unsupported Codec! (I'm using the latest firmware V1.24).
I checked with Gspot and it says they're bog-standard MPEG2 files.

Also what I didn't realise is that when you've got it in music playing mode in your pocket with the LCD off, you can't skip past a track easily without picking it up and looking at it.

Also once you play a song, you get the music info screen which looks nice. But once you press 'back' you can't get back to that song info screen! Duh.

You have to go back to the menu, press music and then navigate back down to the song and then it starts it again from scratch. What alien from another planet wrote this interface! Do Cowon staff actually use it? I guess not.

So not a device you want to put in your car or pocket and just ignore it as it plays.
It really needs a skip button on the right-hand edge.


Also: The Cowon Support web site remains a mystery. They still have not send out my registration approval email after 24 hours. No approval, no access to their support!

If you buy this, ensure you have decent support from your retail supplier!

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