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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

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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.