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Does Creative's Zen Rival Apple's iPod Nano?

The Zen of Creative Zens

The Creative Zen is already available in 4, 8 and 16 GB models. The 32 GB model is scheduled for released early next year. It was created to face off against the iPod Nano. This seems clear with the inclusion of a bunch of bonus features, and even their similar sizes. Now let’s see if the Creative Zen is good enough to take back some of the iPod Nano’s prized market share.

creative zen headphones

Dimensions2.2 x 3.3 x .5 inches (55 x 83 x 12 mm)
Weight2.2 oz (63 g)
Audio FormatsMP3, WMA (DRM), WAVE and (Audible)
Video FormatsWMV, DivX, XviD (320 x 240 pixels)
Capacity4, 8 or 16 GB (32 GB Q1 20080, expandable with SD card

Audio Quality

creative zen

["Now Playing"]

The Creative Zen’s audio quality is pretty good overall. The device performs well even with different audio frequencies, and it can play all qualities of music. However, we noted that sometimes the Bass is a little too strong; it can drown out other audio frequencies a little when played with the basic audio configuration. It’s for this reason that we recommend that you use the equalizer.. problem solved!

It’s all a bit fuzzy...

The strange thing about the Zen is that even when you’re not playing music you can hear a faint buzzing from your headphones. Why you’d have your headphones on while not listening to music is strange in itself, but it’s irritating nonetheless. This is even more noticeable when you are using in-ear headphones; fortunately, the problem is less noticeable when actually listening to music.

The volume, even at its highest setting, is a little lower than we expected. At full power the sound doesn’t drown out background noise, unless of course you are using noise canceling headphones. This means that the headphones you choose can make all the difference with the Zen.

Disappointing battery life

The battery life on the Zen lasts for around 16 hours for audio playback and around 4 hours for video playback. This is only an upsetting feature of the Zen when we remember the promises made by the manufacturer before its release: Creative had announced a battery life of around 25 hours for audio playback and four hours for video playback. The video playback estimate is spot on, but we lose out on nearly ten hours of audio playback, for no apparent reason.

A Couple of things to point out

It should be said that our test was carried out under standard playback conditions (the screen brightness was set at 50% and the sound at two thirds of the maximum).

creative zen

The device is charged via USB. However check out the picture to the left: the lead is so short that users who want to plug it into a USB port on the back of their PCs will need an extension. This is not a huge problem, really, but certainly is an inconvenience.

  • My dad bought this. He then bought the new iPod Nano.
  • Didn't know a square object could have a DIAMETER.... I thought people usually referred to DIAGONAL when measuring screen sizes...
  • i wouldn´t compare the zen directly with the nano

    the zen is twice as thick as the nano, but it also comes with twice as much capacity, with the option to add another 32gb.

    during reading the article, the author seemed to me as he was kind of an apple-fan and so he found irrational cons on the zen.
    sorry, but i'd appreciate a _short_ usb cable. and the power button with the integrated hold-function is also nice - i testet it.

    ok, i'd also prefer it, if the sd-added capacity would be recognized as ordinary system memory and would be integrated completely, but hey! the nano comes with 8gb _maximum_!!!

    i dont want to say the zen is better, but it sure is, like the nano, a great multimedia-player.
  • what i like best:
    16million colours
    customizable menus
    customizable button

    i dont like:
    u have to use creative suite
  • Two big disappointments - video playback and bundled software. I use the Zen to watch TV episodes while using a treadmill at the gym. Most display n letterbox format (making the picture even smaller). There is a "stretch to fit" option which is terrible because of the resulting distortion. There is no "zoom to fit" option like there is on my iPod. Also if you are not viewing from just the right angle the quality is very poor. Again not an issue on my iPod. The bundled software can only synchronize from the PC to the player. There is no communication back to the PC to update the PC library with info such as play count. This makes managing podcasts very tedious compared to iTunes/iPod. I had high hopes for my 16GB Zen as a replacement for iPod but I've been very disappointed.
  • There is one other feature to note, that isn't noted in the article above, and that's the fact that the Zen is able to use WMA DRM, which means that it is able to play audio from an almost inumerable list of online music reatilers(Such as Rhapsody). The lack of WMA DRM support on iPods has been a major bone of contention for some time now, as Apple restricts you to only using their proprietary DRM formats. While this may not be a big issue to some people, for those who use these sites, iPods are just impractacle. And also, you don't HAVE to use the Creative suite to transfer to your device, it's recognized as a Mass Storage Device, so windows explorer will see it and add it to your list as either a mobile audio device (Vista) or a Usp Attached Mass Storage (akin to a USB HDD in everything before Vista).
  • I actually own a Zen, and use it daily. Put is simply, it is a disappointment.

    First of all, the device uses MTP to link up with Windows, which requires Windows Media Player 10 or above. In other words, you can forget about other platforms like OS X or Linux. There is an open source third party software for Mac, and it works reasonably well, but I can say the same with Linux. I have a Ubuntu Linux laptop, an d the software on the repository did work with my Zen. A quick search on google showed I need to manually compile the source and override some default settings. This is just a bit too much for casual Linux user (the very same reaason I went to for Ubuntu for the ease to use reason)

    Secondly, unlike iPod which you can at least see and use the device as a mass storage. This is not an option with Zen because of the MTP protocol it uses. So if you want to use the Zen to move files about, you can forget that idea.

    Thirdly, Zen was sold as a video player as well as a competent mp3 player. Well, Zen is very picky on the video format and size. If you have a library of DivX files, and you think you can simply play it on Zen, you will be disappointed as I am. It only plays DivX video at 320x240 (can remember the exact horizontal resolution) with very strict encoding condition, i.e. you need to recoding your videos to play on Zen. In addition, I found the video and audio often out of sync (I am already using the latest firmware from Creative)

    Honestly, if I know Creative had changed the way its players linking up a computer (using MTP), I would avoid it like I avoid iPod in the first place.

    If I really was an branded player again. This time I would pick up an iPod due to its years of refinement. I guess iPod being the top of mp3 players for so long is for a reason.
  • Sorry, there were few typo in my last post...

    Zen does not work on Ubuntu with the library on the repository.

    You cannot use the Zen as a simply massive storage device.

    ... as it should be read as "I cannot remember the horizontal resolution restriction on Zen)

  • i find the Zen to be a nice device. it plays audio and video well, the sd card slot serves as a mass storage device and i can sync music and vid directly using windows explorer. its alot easier than having to deal with programs like the Zune and iPod. i have yet to compare it to Samsung's players yet, but im quite content with my purchase so far.
  • are you sure about the Creative Suite thing?... I connected the zen with a both vista and xp machine, and it was installed without using drivers... after that it was just like any other USB drive....

    i didn't have to the time to transfer any files, so i might be wrong?