The Cowon iAudio 9 is a sleek touchscreen portable media player.

The market for PMPs is not as happening as it is for mobile phones. However, Cowon has been steadily launching quality portable media players for a while now. Its latest offering, the Cowon iAudio 9 is a sleek portable media player that excels in media playback but is saddled with average touch based controls.

Cowon iAudio 9: Design & Features

This skinny portable media player is much thinner and sleeker than the latest iPod nano. The Cowon iAudio 9 has a white plastic body and the front is mostly taken up by the LCD screen and the capacitive touchpad.

The Cowon iAudio 9's TFT screen is 2in, displaying QVGA resolution and is just good enough to view the playlist or album art but not videos. Below the screen is a capacitive touchpad which serves as the main controls for the player. It has an unusual pattern with a diagonal touch sensitive strip for scrolling like what we've seen in the iAudio7. Those who used the iAudio7 earlier would not find much of a problem with its controls.

But for first time users, it will take awhile to get used to, especially for blind-operation. We found no reason why Cowon had to go for this rather odd touchpad over the trusted tactile buttons as it does not make the user experience any better. The Cowon iAudio 9's body has just two physical buttons on the right for power and menus while the left sport a volume rocker.

There is a headphones jack at the bottom and a proprietary port instead of a microUSB which means you have to stick with the Cowon iAudio 9's bundled cable and nothing else.

In the UK the Cowon iAudio 9 comes in 8GB, 16GB and 32GB and there is no option to slot a card in for more memory. It plays a wide range of audio /video formats that includes FLAC and XviD support apart from popular formats like MP3, WMA, OGG, WAV, APE and WMV.

There is a TV-out function as well but no cable is included with the Cowon iAudio 9. The rest are pretty much standard features already found on previous Cowon products- like FM radio, voice recording via its onboard microphone, photo viewer and document (TXT) viewer and an onboard mono speaker.

For better and richer audio experience, Cowon has loaded the iAudio9 with a host of enhancements that includes a massive 35 presets and 4 user presets. Its latest DSP, the BBE+ and Jet Audio 3.0 sound effects that includes BBE, Mach3Bass, MP3 Enhance and 3D Surround are the driving force behind all these enhancements. The Cowon iAudio 9 player has a claimed battery life of 29 hours for audio playback or seven hours of video playback time.

NEXT: the Cowon iAudio 9's performance, tested in the PC World India labs >>