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Like MP3 players, PMPs (that is, Portable Media Players) are getting smaller and smaller. Take the Creative Zen for instance. Yes, it’s simply called the Creative Zen and looks like a compressed and flattened version of the Vision:W. Considering that it was only recently launched and there’s also rumor of a 32GB version coming soon, I'm glad that my buddy Rajesh got one for me. Here’s what I’ve found.
It’s a slim and sleek device that’s about the length of a credit card and is thinner than a pack of cards. It’s available in 4GB and 8GB versions and, according to the grapevine, a 32GB model should be out sometime in the near future. As if that’s not enough, it also supports external memory with MMC/SD cards. The slot is located at the top. The front has a superb 2.5 inch display with a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels and 16 million colors.
The keys are well-placed with a five way nav-pad. There's a Return and sub-menu key above it, and a customizable key and the Play/Pause key beneath. On the side is a 3.5mm earphone slot. Underneath that is the slider for Power and Hold activation and finally a miniUSB slot at the bottom. The whole device weighs about 65g, so it’s extremely easy to carry around in your pocket. Heck, you could probably carry it around in your wallet.
Features and performance
The Creative Zen is a great gadget with a well-rounded feature package, like most of Creative's Media players. Since the resolution is great you’ll have no problem viewing your JPEG images. You also have a choice of viewing them as a slideshow with music. You can set any image as a wallpaper, and there are themes to choose from. The interface is simple yet catchy enough with easy maneuverability. The Zen also allows you to transfer your schedules, tasks, and contact base from your PC to the player.
Although I realized the oddity of having to go back and forth to change presets in EQ, there’s no direct link to the System Audio Settings directly from the sub-menu. But having a customizable EQ and presets is a good thing nevertheless. The Music menu has a simple alphabetic search option that makes locating files quite easy.
What I was disappointed with are the bundled earphones. Although they may be comfortable in your ear the sound quality is surprisingly not as good as in the other Creative players I’ve tested. It isn’t just that. For some reason Creative thought it expedient to include a headset with a very short wire. My advice? Buy your own earphones.
It’s always good to have an integrated FM radio. And I’m happy to report that the pickup was quite all right in most places while commuting through the city. The Autoscan feature will set your presets up in just under 15 seconds, which is great. The Zen also has a built in microphone for voice recording.
The funny thing about the Creative Zen is that it allows playback of MJPEG, WMV9, MPEG4-SP, DivX 4/5 and XviD formats, but almost every file I tried transferring to the device required to be converted. And conversion is a loooong process. The processed file and playback is great though. It’s easy on the eyes and very comfortable to watch. To bookmark your last frame while in the middle of a video you simply press the center of the nav-pad. You can even watch ZENcasts by downloading them and transferring them to the player via the Media Explorer PC application.
The battery on this small player is really remarkable. I was able to watch two full movies back to back, and still had enough battery life to watch almost three-fourths of a 20-minute TV show. That’s brilliant. Music playback clocked in at around 24 hours, which is not bad at all. The battery charges though USB via the PC.
I like everything about the Zen except the earphones, a few minor issues with navigation, and the problem with reading video file formats. The battery is great, the fact that you can extend the memory is a plus, and the extra features and music quality of the player were all good. The Creative Zen is priced at Rs 8,500 for 4GB and Rs 13,000 for 8GB, which is a steal. Definitely worth the price.