Presentation and design
Cowon’s packaging and the unboxing experience for the Plenue R2 is absolutely first-rate, giving the sense of a well-designed and considered experience from the very first interaction. The Plenue R2 ships with a USB-C type cable, quick-start guide, and screen-protector for its 3.7” AMOLED 800×400 touch-screen.
The R2 itself strikes a fine balance between portability and durability, weighing in at a mere 154g. In the hand, it feels like a finely-crafted piece of engineering, with a single rim of darkly-finished matte aluminium around the edge of the device finished in stylish, angular edges and a tapered, asymmetrical base. The ‘PLENUE’ name and other symbols appear to be laser-etched into the metal and overall gives the R2 the appearance of a much more expensive device than its $549 price-tag would suggest.
Three physical buttons are located on the side of the R2 – two rockers to control volume and track rewind/advancement, as well as a play/pause button. The power button on the top of the device is very neatly back-lit with an LED which provides a pulsing ‘heartbeat’ of light during operation and changes colour according to the file-type and bit-rate being played. It’s genuinely cool to behold.
The rear case of the Plenue R2 is made from a single piece of ridged plastic, the only plastic evident in the device’s build. While an all-metal build would have been nice, understandably this has used for both weight and cost-saving measures.
For my last comment on its physical build, the Plenue R2 is available with an optional leather case, which was supplied with this review unit. It’s a rather-nice ‘mocha’-coloured piece, with red stitching and an embossed Plenue symbol on the rear. It doesn’t add any substantial bulk to the R2, allows full access to the buttons and connectivity, and looks pretty handsome – I’d say it’s a ‘must’ accessory for both its protective and visual benefits.
Rather than opting for an Android-based player (and therefore the ability to use apps, and the like), Cowon has chosen a linux-based player for navigation and operation of the Plenue R2 via its AMOLED touchscreen display. Device start-up time is impressive – you can go from ‘off’ to ‘music on’ in fifteen seconds according to my stop-watch. If you want a device to help you play music wherever, whenever on a whim, this is really nice.
The screen itself is only 800×400, but I found that to be plenty of resolution for the display of album cover art, and to navigate functions – the screen is sufficiently bright, and characters are crisp, contrasted and easily read. The screen itself is slightly different to the type of glass you’d be used to on a smartphone, and it does pick up fingerprints and smudges, so be prepared to give it a good wipe regularly.
The R2’s style of screen and playback display is customisable, allowing the user to choose between several cosmetic ‘skins’, including some basic VU-meters which is a cute idea, but not that useful.
A single ‘home’ button is located at the button of the screen and is programmable to perform several functions. One of my biggest worries about using a DAP was the UI, but I found that I was able to grasp basic navigation of the Plenue R2 in no time at all. Interacting with the R2’s various menus and settings is intuitive and straight-forward, and swiping through folders of music was neither laggy or clumsy. It’s simple, and it works – a big ‘tick’ in my book, which helped cast-aside one of my primary DAP bugbears straight-off-the-bat.
Head over to page 3 for digital connectivity, headphone driving power and sound quality.