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Creative's latest MP3 player offers a 2.5in screen, video playback capabilities, photo viewer, voice recorder and an FM radio. It claims to provide 25 hours of battery life and is the size of a credit card. Sounds good on paper, but does it all come together in practice? Despite beating Apple to market with the Nomad MP3 player …

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Unhappy

Bundled software - no doubt it's crap

Shame you didn't review the bundled software. If it's the same as the Zen Vision M software it will be very poor. "Synchronising" any more than a few hundred tracks will be slow and painfull (if it can be called "synchronising" - more like "try synchronising, give up, reformat Zen, push all tracks from PC to Zen for the Nth time"). Not to mention the number of times it crashes and freezes. Bah!

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Don't bother expecting a breakthrough

Creative have been giving you more bang for your buck than Apple since the first iPod, so they're unlikely to overtake them now. The word "iPod" is to "MP3 player" as "Hoover" is to "vacuum cleaner", and as underpowered and overpriced as Apple products are, you have to respect them for that. As long as that's the case, non-iPod iPods aren't going to have the success they deserve.

My suggestion is that every single time someone's talking about their iPod, ask them "So what's the radio reception like?" Do it enough times and when the swelling goes down you'll be left with that lovely feeling called smugness, and maybe Apple will be toppled off their throne just that bit sooner.

@Jolly: I have a Zen Vision M and have never had any problem synchronising, not even when I uploaded my several thousand tracks the first time I used it. Maybe it is slower than other models, but when I'm uploading tracks I don't stare at the screen waiting for it to finish. Particularly as it's going to remain plugged in to the computer for a few hours to charge anyway.

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re: Bundled Software

The advantage of these is that you don't need the bundled software either copy the files across using windows explorer or let WMP do it. Throw the bunled apps CD away.

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do you need the software

Do you actually need the software?

I got the zen stone recently for taking to the gym and you can just drag and drop files into the player which is a hell of a lot easier than using custom software.

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Thumb Up

Actually the bundle's not bad

It integrates with Windows, converts from just about anything to a format the Zen can play (even the MS-DVR files on my media-center box), quick to transfer, and has never crashed even after transfering a couple of thousand tracks to it. Once you have the drivers on your PC, you can also use mediaplayer 10+ to do the transfering as well (and if mediaplayer has embedded the cover images in your audio files, they'll show on screen when playing on the Zen as well).

Previous player was a Creative Zen Xtra, so I know of the pain you talk about, but this just does what it's supposed to.

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JB
Unhappy

All the same

Well, not quite; the hardware is usually pretty funky, and I'd happily carry one around. But why oh why do they all rely on proprietory software to transfer media? I guess the answer is that the U in USB stands for Unprofitable. Manufacturers: when you start making devices that are simply USB mass storage devices that will work on any operating system, I'll dump my 3-year-old Iriver H320 and shell out on one of yours!

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Alert

Zen isn't new you know...

Why all the musing over the player's name? Zen has been the brand name for all of Creative's players for at least 3 or 4 years...

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@jolly

I assume it will follow other creative stuff it will be mtp so you could use media player if didn't like the bundled software and if you're a masochist

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Reviewer should become more familiar with interface

Sounds like a similar interface to all the other Zen players.

What you describe sounds exactly right; you select an artist, then select a track, you're telling it to play THAT TRACK. If you want to play everything from that artist, then hit PLAY when you've highlighted the artist. If you drill down and select a track then hit play, then you're telling it to play THAT TRACK.

Same with albums. You highlight the album you want to play, and hit PLAY. If you drill down, you're selecting a single track to play.

Once you realize this, the interface makes perfect sense. Zen players have been like this for a while; my Micro and Vision:M are like this.

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Paris Hilton

Unrealistic price differntial between 4GB and 16GB models...

I want one - the only problem being my Yorkshire roots not understanding the £100 price differential between the 4 and 16GB models (4GB ~80 and 16GB ~180GBP), and am pretty p155ed off that tunes in the expansion memory get treated differently... According to my R&R sums, given the wholesale cost of flash, the 16GB version should retail at around 155 Abramovich..

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Anonymous Coward

The trouble with Zen

..is that it sounds like Zune, and no-one wants Microsofts shite DRM player.

And with the quite wonderful ipod Touch out now, no-one will want this.

If you're that cheap you'll use your phone for music, video too maybe, whats an inch or two while you wait for the train.

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Paris Hilton

still plays more stuff than an ipod

When will apple learn the benefits of offering a decent range of formats. Anyone who regularly downloads movies off the net (divx, xvid etc), or wishes to download to music subscription services (wma) other than Apple's shop has a time on their hands finding a player as sexy as the iPod series.

I have a creative zen:w which is everything I expected, great quality and easy to use. It plays pretty much any of the video formats I throw at it without multiple hour format conversions required for each of my existing divx videos (unlike iPods which require conversion to some obsure Apple only format). I expect this creative player follows suit.

I'd go for an Apple any day... should they stop sucking at supporting a decent range of video formats. Creative need to invest in some cutting edge style designers, along side the great tech they pack into their products. This would help them gain people who can drool over their products rather than just gaining people that see Creative's products fit their specification list.

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Software- We don't need no software

I have a Creative Zen Nano. I just plug it into the USB connector, and it looks liks a USB drive. I can then copy files to my heards delight. It works well on both my Linux and OS-X boxes. I am, blessedly, windows-free, and intend to stay that way. :)

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Coat

@Software- We don't need no software

With my Zen Vision:M, I just plug it in and it was instantly recognized by Windows Media Player. Heck, I didn't even bother with the installation CD.

@JB:

They don't. You could get away with it using WiMP and/or Gnomad2.

@Anonymous coward:

Yes, but will the iPod touch play DivX files? Aside from the fancy touchscreen, nothing new. Plus, as long as Apple still think my money isn't good enough the the iTunes Music Store (what the heck is wrong with Malaysian credit cards/addresses!?), I won't consider the iPod. If my money isn't good enough for them, why should I bother with them further?

I would get the new Zen, when and if they put out a 32GB white-with-blue-button-backlight model (like my existing Zen Vision:M).

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Thumb Down

FM? Why not DAB?

Why are they still sticking FM Radios into these devices? Hardluck if live in Whitehaven or one of the other areas of the UK where Analogue is being turned off and replaced with Digital.

When they finally get round to sensibly supplying these things with DAB radio, I may even think of buying one. :)

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Jobs Horns

Creative have always been better than Apple

Thats why Apple stole their product in the first place and ended up paying millions in damages.

http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2006/08/24/apple_settles_with_creative/

The only reason the ipod is so big is because Apple spend a fortune advertising and hyping it up. As with all Apple products it's second rate if you ignore the hype. As for the frankly insane followers they have, it isn't about how good it is, or what it can do, it's the hype and the smug factor saying 'I'm so cool, I own an Apple'

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Maybe I can interest you in...

'it's the hype and the smug factor saying 'I'm so cool, I own an Apple''

This may be just what you should be wearing when you encounter the Apple Droids.

http://www.tshirthell.com/store/product.php?productid=910

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Syd

DAB

Unless the gvt have changed their minds again (???) analogue radio will not be switched off for the moment - there just hasn't been sufficient take-up of DAB, as the radios are too expensive and too power-hungry.

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Bronze badge

1 of several MP3 players with a DAB tuner

http://www.breezily.co.uk/products/iriver_b20_2gb_dab_radio_mp3_player

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Anonymous Coward

Sound quality and volume?

So compared to the Ipod nano, assuming I am playing a high bitrate mp3 which actually sounds better?

And what about the volume ?

My Ipod nano (fatty) does of course come with the EU crippled sound volume, which basically means even with inear phones (Sennheiser CX300) listening to quieter classical music on the street is nigh on impossible.

I have even resorted to using a boosteroo amplifier, which of course is another device to carry around with me.. more leads etc..

Has anyone directly compared the volume between the cripplied ipods and the Zen?

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Silver badge

Creative Zen? *shudders*

I have a Zen V, and I thought I'd have a shufty at this review to see what the opinion was.

I take it that the sound processing unit is entirely different to that on the Zen V, which is, frankly, atrocious. Using Shure E2Cs [reasonable headphones] I get lots of low end distortion on Nine Inch Nails tracks with lots of lovely bass. Except with the Zen I just get it crapping out and buzzing. Regardless of the settings for the bass in the equaliser, and the bass boost setting itself.

It's not the headphones, as the problem doesn't exist with my iRiver H320 [the Zen was a workaround till I get a new battery/less watt-hungry HD for the H320], my laptop [ubuntu], nor my desktop [XP] regardless of how I set the bass.

Oh, and the oLED screen started getting dead pixels within weeks.

And another thing - why can't I just create the folder structure that I want, rather than relying on ID3 tags? I have rakes of files mixed up by mates and pupils at the school I work with that either have incomplete tags or none at all, and my Zen just won't see them. With the H320, you just drill down to the folder, Explorer style.

And *another* thing, unrelated to the Zen but hell, I'm on a roll, why the hell do you want 'touch' controls on something you will have in your pocket 90% of the time? I don't want to take it out of my pocket every time I want to skip a track.

I'm sure the Zen is a good little player, but the touch controls and [I expect] the same transfer system as my Zen V means I won't be getting one any time soon.

*goes off to get ibuprofen for rant induced headache, and to hunt ebay for H320 batteries and HDs*

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Jobs Horns

@Graham Lockley

Love it! Thanks for the heads up. I will def be getting one of those T-shirts!

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