We've tested two portable media players - the Cowon D2 and the Archos 704 WiFi - that enable you to enjoy music, photos and videos wherever you go. Both have touchscreens to simplify navigation, but that's where the similarities end. Given their dramatically different physical designs, the two players will appeal to different types of users.
The much cheaper, pocket-size Cowon D2 is smaller than the Archos 704 WiFi. The D2 is about two-thirds the size of an old iPod (before they got skinny). It sits in your hand comfortably, and slips easily into a shirt pocket. It's a typical 2GB audio player with an SD Card slot that can display photos and play videos, except that it has a 2.5-inch touch screen. Though the display was attractive, I can't imagine watching video on such a small screen for more than a few minutes.
On the D2, you have to touch one of two icons to move forward or back through your photo collection collection. (It's just as easy to use your fingertip as the included small - and easy to misplace - stylus.)
Even worse, the Cowon took 2 to 3 seconds to render our photos; each time, the pixelated blocks looked like a stalled game of Breakout until the full details showed up. The workaround is to view photos in slideshow mode at all times; this seems to allow the device to render the photos behind the scenes.
According to a spokesperson, the D2 was performing a progressive scan of my high-resolution photos so it could display them. Oddly, the included JetShell 4.5 software didn't automatically downsample my photos for more efficient viewing and storage on the player, but the company says an upcoming version will include this option.
The Cowon D2 plays MPEG-4 and WMV video files, as well as DivX 3.11. In tests where we measure the quality of audio from the headphone jack, the Cowon D2 produced a loud signal with little distortion or noise.
The Cowon's pair of headphones is so poorly constructed that the face of the left bud popped off after a few trips in my bag.
Unlike the Archos 704 WiFi, the Cowon D2 comes with an FM radio tuner, which delivered a clear signal in my informal tests. Unfortunately, navigating music on the Cowon D2's interface was more confusing than on the Archos'. For example, choosing 'Music' from the main calls up the last song you played. To select a different song or locate a playlist, you have to tap the screen to bring up a row of icons and select the 'browser' icon to reach the dynamic playlist or a bookmarked song (which need not begin at the start of the song). The touchscreen works well, though the screen's response occasionally lagged as I scrolled through the song list.
You use the D2's JetAudio software to convert video and audio files, and the JetShell app to transfer files to the player (or import songs from a CD). Unfortunately, you can't set up playlists beyond adding songs to the one dynamic playlist.