Goodbye, Cowon; Hello again, Sandisk

My Cowon iAudio 7 crapped out on me after three months. I’m extremely disappointed, since both “official” (CNET and the like) and user reviews for it appear to all be positive. Well, I’m sorry to say that my experience is not. So either I happened to have the fluke lemon unit, or other people are lying.

Yes, there are things I still like about it, even now. The battery life is unmatched by anything else on the market. Officially, it’s supposed to be 60 hours. I’ve never timed it, but I use my player extensively during my commute, and one charge on the iAudio 7 easily lasts a month. It’s a cute size and shape. It can play many formats, although that’s become less of a concern for me since I’ve given up on Ogg and gone back to MP3.

Nevertheless, I can’t say I’ve had an overall positive experience with it over the last three months. The controls were very difficult to figure out and get used to—they are also too sensitive to the touch, especially when I’m trying to skip songs instead of fast-forward. Initially, skipping songs even took two or three seconds to complete, until I did a firmware upgrade.

Sad, garbled Cowon screen This last straw is the screen suddenly crapping out on me. I didn’t drop, crush, or abuse the player in any way, but there appears to be a diagonal crack on the inside (not the outside) of the screen that corrupts the display to the point of being unusable.

I contacted Cowon’s support, and they said they can’t determine if it’s covered by warranty or not until they examine the device. Now they want me to mail it in (at my own expense!). I’m not sure yet whether I think it’s worth the trouble to do so or not. I’ve already bought a new MP3 player (a Sandisk Sansa Clip), and it appears to be much better (simple controls that aren’t too sensitive) for a much cheaper price. And I’ve used Sandisk before; my old Sandisk player lasted me years before breaking. If I did get it fixed, it would be just to see if they’d admit they had shoddy workmanship and cover it under the warranty or blame me even though I didn’t do anything to break it; and then I could just give it away to someone who didn’t mind sensitive controls. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m back to Sandisk and still confused as to why Cowon gets such rave reviews.

Update: I did mail it in, and they said it wasn’t covered under warranty, and I would have to pay US$57 to replace the LCD screen. No thanks. That money was better spent on my Sansa Clip.

Further Reading
Cowon iAudio 7 Review (Ubuntu perspective)
Cowon iAudio 7 Review Addendum

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4 Comments

  1. Owned a Cowan D2 for one month, loved it did everything I was told it would do. The problem came when the internal LCD cracked for no reason while resting in the protective case that I purchased with it in a suit jacket pocket. I returned it to COWAN AMERICA and they told me it would cost $67.00 for a new screen. I refused to pay as the LCD being a touch screen should be able to withstand being transported while in a pocket. Perhaps my interaction did wear it down, which I doubt as most time I used my finger tip to control it. And if this is truly the case than COWAN D2 users should beware as my product lasted for one month. Not a good track record in my book as my PDA and Nintendo DS are about 2 years old and still going strong. Considering that there was no damage on the exernal screen, I truely believe was due to shabby material, design or workmanship. I am now looking fo a new player and have considered the Sandisk.

  2. Thanks for sharing that story. I was beginning to think I was alone and had some freak experience. While the glowing reviews of Cowon seem to indicate the experience isn’t common, your experience at least lets me know that it is a problem (however small a population it affects), not just a freak accident.

    Yes, Sandisk is solid – I’ve used two of their players so far.

  3. My guess would be that the problem is actually with bad sealing. Moisture probably got in and expanded as it vaporized in ambient heat, causing stress and eventually cracking the screen. Not that it really helps you any with what happened (it’ll still be cracked), but that’s my guess.

  4. You’re probably right, but it’s annoying that Cowon doesn’t recognize the fault as being their own. With the iPods and Sandisk players my wife and I have had over the years, we’ve never had this problem.

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