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Cowon J3 ships to America, we go hands-on

Nary two full months after we first caught wind of Cowon's dainty (albeit super sexy) J3 portable media player, the award-winning device has both gone on sale and arrived on our doorstep (along with a few others, according to a few jovial tipsters). As of today, prospective consumers in the US can order one for $199.99 (8GB) or $239.99 (16GB), both of which have microSD slots for capacity expansion. Per usual, Cowon's packaging here was nothing short of delightful, and the 3.3-inch AMOLED display struck us just as the S9 did oh-so-many months ago. Unlike the larger V5 we reviewed back in March, we greatly appreciated the capacitive nature of this touch panel, and finger presses were accurately and immediately recognized. The user interface was also far more streamlined, and whizzing about from area to area was no issue.

As with every other Cowon player we've ever laid ears on, the audio quality out of this one was second to none; if you're a self-proclaimed audiophile, yet can't exactly accommodate your Marantz KI Pearl on the subway, this is about as good as it gets. The video player was similarly impressive, loading up clips with minimal fuss, and showing no lag whatsoever during playback. Unfortunately, for all the things this gorgeous unit does right, the only spec that matters to some is wrong: pricing. We hate to point out the obvious, but an 8GB iPod touch is also just $199, and unlike the J3, Apple's alternative can surf the web over WiFi and bring you face to face with 100,000 (or so) apps. From a value proposition standpoint, there's simply no comparison. 'Course, the J3 may still stand out if you're all about audio quality (and nothing else), but we've yet to actually meet someone who didn't care at least a smidgen about the extras. Vote with your wallet, as they say.