REVIEW: Creative Zen 32GB

Discussion in 'OT Technology' started by deusexaethera, Mar 28, 2008.

  1. deusexaethera

    deusexaethera OT Supporter

    Jan 27, 2005
    Likes Received:
    I just bought one of these, so I figured I'd post a quick* review.

    *did I say "quick"? I meant "long as shit".


    The Creative Zen is the latest in a long line of PMPs made by Creative Labs, Inc. The model I bought sports 32GB of solid-state memory, not a hard drive, so there are no moving parts to damage or overheat and the battery life is great. It also comes with an SD card slot for extra storage, in case you need it, though the current firmware doesn't support displaying the SD card's contents mixed in with the onboard memory's contents. Maybe they'll fix that quirk in the future, but it doesn't really affect me because I only have ~18GB of music anyway, well within the limits of the onboard storage.

    The case is nice; some people have complained that it's made entirely out of plastic, instead of having a metal backing, but in my experience a metal case is as much a liability as a plastic case is -- metal might be stronger, but it also dents and scuffs more easily, so I'm fine with having something that holds up to being stuffed in a bag with a bunch of other devices. The front of the case is shiny clear plastic, though, so I installed a screen protector to keep the screen...well...protected. It would've been nice if it had come with one preinstalled, but a set of 3 protectors cost $7, so the only complaint is that it's probably easier to cure cancer than it is to install a screen protector squarely and without dust getting caught underneath. (Somehow I managed to do it, so it's not impossible.)

    The controls are all tactile, with an audible *click* when a button is pressed. Navigation is handled by a four-way D-pad with a center button for selecting highlighted commands or files; nothing weird going on there. If you're a die-hard fan of the iPod's scroll wheel, you'll probably piss on the button controls, but it doesn't make much difference for us mere mortals, and when you only want to scroll one item at a time, the D-pad is actually better than a scroll wheel. There is also a "Back" button to navigate back up through menus that you've gone down into, so you don't have to start over from the main menu if all you want to do is switch from one folder to another, and there is a programmable shortcut button for jumping to whatever is your favorite listing of songs, be it by Artist, by Album, by Song Name, whatever.

    The software is par for the course in terms of functionality, with the standard list of media and settings categories to start with, and a standard set of list views once you've selected a media category -- as previously noted, you can sort by Artist, Album, Song Name, Genre, and so on, or you can see all tracks in a single list if you simply can't remember who the hell that one song was written by. Interestingly, though, the aesthetics of the software are actually better than what most iPods have; the fonts are anti-aliased for better readability, categories have little icons to go with them, songs can display their album art, etc -- and in the "pretty, yet totally useless fluff" category, the color scheme can be switched between Velvet Red, Marine Blue, Sable Black, Royal Purple, Neon Orange, and Forest Green. Like I said, totally useless, but pretty.

    The player supports mp3, wma, and m4a formats for audio (including iTunes Plus tracks!), and wmv and avi for video (possibly mpg too, but I didn't try that one). The screen is small, so you won't want to watch a movie on it, but for clips and Podcasts (oops, I mean "ZENcasts" :mamoru:) it works fine. The sound is clear, if a little quiet, and there is a five-bar EQ that has about a dozen presets in addition to being manually-adjustable, which is a nice touch.

    The unit charges directly from the USB port it's plugged into, so Creative didn't bother to include a wall charger; this might be a problem for you, but the long battery life mitigates that problem, and if you have a Motorola phone (or any other phone with an AC-to-USB charger), you can just borrow its wall charger if you need to.

    All in all, I like it. It could do with better stock earbuds (which I never use anyway), and the long-term durability of the shiny plastic faceplate could be an issue, but from the perspective of actually using the ZEN, it does everything I want and it does it in style. Is it worth $280+ to get a 32GB mp3 player? Maybe so, maybe not -- if you can't justify that cost, you can get one with 16GB for $100 less, and at that price it's definitely worth the money. I'd say I've found another good way (my third, in fact) to avoid becoming a Pod Person for a couple more years.

Share This Page