Cowon is known for its high-quality portable video players; and the company's newest model, the Cowon O2, doesn't disappoint.

With its gorgeous touchscreen and crystal-clear sound, the flash-based Cowon O2 is sure to please customers looking for a fairly inexpensive PVP. But several gripes we've had with previous models - such as lack of ID3 tagging and no support for DRM-protected files - apply to the O2 as well.

The Cowon O2 doesn't provide video-recording capabilities or internet browsing; it's a straightforward video and audio player.

The O2 supports an astonishing number of video files and has no file size limits. As a result, if your media collection contains files that use various video formats, you won't be burdened with the task of converting them to a unitary format. The Cowon O2 supports ASF, AVI, DAT, DivX, h.264, M-JPEG, MKV, MP4, MPEG-1, MPEG-4, MTV, OGM, WMV, WMV 9/8/7, and XviD.

Video playback on the Cowon O2's 4.3in screen is smooth and sharp, with the right amount of brightness and colour balance. The 480-by-272-pixel screen isn't amazing, but video on the O2 looks great anyway.

The Cowon O2's audio quality and support are as impressive as its video output. The unit's audio player supports AC3, Apple Lossless, FLAC, G.726, Monkey Audio, MPEG-1 Layer 1/2/3, MusePack, Ogg FLAC, Ogg Vorbis, PCM, True Audio, WavPack, and WMA.

In our Test Centre sound tests, the Cowon O2 had a signal-to-noise ratio average (the higher the number, the cleaner the sound) of 85 db - higher than some of the top-ranked players in our reviews. The Cowon O2 has some great sound-enhancement features too, like a 10-band equaliser and settings for 3D sound quality. In our hands-on tests, audio sounded crisp, with no detectable static or distortion. The included earbuds don't do the sound justice, however, and they were a bit too large to fit comfortably.

Despite its excellent audio and video quality, the Cowon O2 has a major drawback: It doesn't support DRM-protected music and video files. As a result you won't be able to watch WMVs from Amazon or Cinema Now or listen to protected AACs from iTunes or WMVs from certain subscription-based music stores.

Measuring 119x73x18mm, the Cowon O2 is slim enough to fit in your jacket or trouser pocket. And weighing in at 206g, it is far from heavy.

The Cowon O2 is controlled almost entirely by touch (the exceptions are a volume rocker on the top spine and a hold/power switch on the right spine).

Despite its slim size, the Cowon O2 isn't suitable for one-handed operation. To view video comfortably, you must either hold it in two hands or place it on top of a tabletop. Unfortunately, because the screen is prone to glare in brightly lit environments, you must angle it correctly for an optimum viewing experience; a tabletop kickstand would have been a handy addition.

Another small but noticeable drawback we discovered is that the Cowon O2 gets a bit warm in hand.

NEXT PAGE: the Cowon O2's interface