Creative Zen: More Flash for Less Cash

Creative has abandoned hard drive-based devices, and the new ZEN is the company’s first shot at a flash-based music and video player. It has larger screen and more features (including an FM radio and a voice recorder) than its comparably priced competitor, the iPod nano. The Zen also offers a roomy 16GB version, which rings up at $150 less than the same-capacity iPod touch. In addition, the ZEN has an SD memory card slot, so the player’s capacity is expandable.

Audio file support for the ZEN is fairly good, including WMA, MP3, and unprotected AAC. For video, the ZEN supports only WMV, but it comes with software to convert DivX/Xvid and MPEG-4 files. JPEGs are the only supported photo format.

The large 2.5-inch.320-by-240-pixel screen displays colorful and sharp images, and the interface uses graphics that are sharp, well designed, and easy to navigate. Audio quality is adequate, but you’ll want to upgrade the not-so-great bundled earphones.

Sure, the ZEN has its flaws: It’s nearly as big as some hard drive-based players: it doesn’t have a lightning-fast start-up time; and the interface can be a bit slow. But it works well, is expandable, and has more extras than you find in Apple players.

Creative Zen Short Review
Price range: 4GB ($130), 8GB ($200), 16GB ($250)

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