The New Look Creative Zen

The MP3 market can be a funny one – with (at times) there seemingly nothing to buy barring an iPod.  However, I’ve never gone down that route due to Apple locking you in to their iTunes software (along with ridiculous use of second character capitalisation).  What I did buy was a few Creative products.  They haven’t gone wrong on me yet.  That’s why I’d like to point you in the direction of the new Creative Zen.

So why is it good then?  Well, let’s look at the outside first of all.  With a great little form factor, it is sure to get those who’d only buy an iPod coming over to investigate your new purchase.  The dimensions are as follows: 55 x 83 x 12mm that means you’ll barely even notice it in your pocket.  Worry not about the screen though, it is a brilliant 2.5-inch screen in 16.7 million colours.  Whatever content you’re viewing, it is sure to look good.

For storage, you won’t be disappointed.  There’s literally a Creative Zen to fit every budget, as it is available in the following sizes: 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, 16GB or a massive 32GB (I’m not even sure I have that much music!).  There’s also a cool SD/SDHC expansion slot so you shouldn’t ever have a problem with storing your music, pictures and videos.

This brings me nicely on to the actual types of files that are supported by this nifty little player.  Well, there’s support for MP3 and AAC so that you can play any music you have ripped from your home audio collection.  Then on top of that there’s WMA support too.  To make it complete musically there’s also support for WAVE and Audible formats.  So you shouldn’t ever have a problem getting your favourite smash hits to play, or your podcasts for that matter.

Video playback looks excellent on the screen – you can really tell that a lot of thought has gone into the size and the contrast/brightness is superb.  You shouldn’t be getting any eye strain from this.  In terms of playback, you have the option of the following file types: WMV and DivX/XviD support (320×240).  The resolution has been picked to give best display on the high quality LCD display.

Naturally, there’s also a photo viewer to compliment the video playback.  Images can be resized for best fit for the player (more on the software later) and are all very easy to bookmark/file on to the player itself.  Yes, you’ll have to use Zen software but no, it’s not half as intrusive as iTunes is and you won’t have to reformat your files.

In terms of the other playback options, you can set up the Zen to record voice messages – so if you have any sudden work inspiration or indeed geeky ideas then switch on the in-built microphone.  It is just perfect for this purpose.  On top of that, you’ll be pleased to note you can tune in to your favourite radio stations with the FM receiver included in the Zen.

Additional features include a clock and alarm function
, volume restriction, eight equalizer settings, and a USB hard drive mode, which allows you to drag and drop files directly to and from your Zen. The Zen can also function as a handy organizer, allowing you to synchronize with Microsoft Outlook and display your contacts, calendar, and tasks.

Would I recommend the Zen?  Absolutely.  The software is simple to use and has an easy interface allowing even (gasp) drag and drop functionality.  Perhaps the only real criticism I have is that enough people won’t be going out to buy this as it seems to have hit the market a little late to really compete with the various iPods that are now available.  Nonetheless, Creative have created (pardon the pun) a wonderful product and if you are in the market for a new MP3/video player I’d certainly recommend it.

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