Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Review: Creative Zen Micro, the music player that thinks its a PDA

I have the privelege to be the proud owner of a brand new Creative Zen Micro music player. Here you can see it still on life support (being charged for the first time), but using its ninja stealth to blend in with the Mac (Silver finish). I personally like the silver with the blue backlight, which by the way is one of the coolest backlights aside from the dual blue/green backlights on my Nomad Jukebox 3. Creative has a new player that does 7 colors, but I wont get into that.

But maybe you would all rather hear about the player itself? I can do that. Here is a link to the full specs page, but basically it is a 5GB hard disc player with all the fixins. It plays WMA, MP3, and WAV, not to mention protected WMA types (more info two paragraphs down). The screen looks fairly dense as far as the resolution is concerned, certainly good enough for an MP3 player. It uses a touch sensitive scrollbar for navigation, which is pretty easy to use. The removable Li-Ion battery should get about 10 hours of life.

Interesting to some may be the fact that it has no hardbuttons, but only touch sensitive backlit areas on the front. The computer interface is a high speed USB 2.0 port that can both transfer data and provide power to the device through its plug adapter or through a regular (powered) USB port.

The interface is the same as other mainstream players. It has different levels, with the top level giving access to all of the different features. One click and you could be in the music library, the FM radio, the system settings, the PIM apps (more on that later), the playback settings, and actually whatever you want, because, believe it or not, the menu is completely configurable.

The Zen Micro supports Microsofts "Play for Sure" specification. It can handle both protected WMA and WMA based subscription services. The firmware upgrade for Play for Sure makes it completely compatable with Windows Media Player 10 without extra drivers. Syncing is effortless with Windows Media Player 10 and a Play for Sure device.

The player has all of the standard playback options, including repeat and shuffle options. Like many modern players, it also includes different equalizer settings, but not EAX options like its larger siblings. It does have a volume normalizing setting. It sounds really great. Another neat feature is that if you turn it off when playing a song, it begins playback nearly instantaneously, in about half a second, before it even gets to the splash screen.

Now, to get to a point. I said it had PIM apps. It can sync with Outlook for your calender, your tasks, and your contacts. It even has a "Drive Mode" similar to newer Palm handhelds. You can set an amount of storage to designate as drive storage from 128mb to 2gb. You dont even need to reformat the HDD. It works with Windows and OSX.

All in all, its a really great player, and I think I am going to enjoy it for quite a while. My music collection is realtively small (about 2-3GBs of compressed audio), so if you have a small collection, this just may be the player to consider. If you have a larger collection, you may want to consider a Zen Xtra, Zen Touch, or a regular Zen in the Creative arsenal. iRiver makes some great players too, and there are a couple Gateways that arent half bad. Check the 1src forums for some info on why I dont want an iPod. I have some problems with their methodology, but I wouldnt want to discourage anyone from researching them. Here is another picture just for a different view. Please post any questions about this device or comments you may have about the article in the comments section.


Blogger Mitchell Rusk said...

oooooooo, pretty lights :)

9:15 PM  
Blogger Brad Green said...

Yes they are...

3:45 AM  
Blogger Tam Hanna said...

Hi Brad,
one hit of review! Congratz.
BTW, how do the prices compare to the ipods?
Best regards
Tam Hanna

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You need to modify the specs listed on your review. This player is not a "flash drive". It is classified as a "hard drive" or "micro drive" based MP3 player. Flash drives are ram based units that have no moving parts unlike the hard drive based players who are more susceptible to damage because of the moving parts in the hard drive itself.

6:05 PM  
Blogger Brad Green said...

You are right, it is a HDD based device. Could have fooled me though. I have never used a device that pops back up from being turned off so fast. It takes half a second from the time you hit the button. It probably has a flash or RAM buffer. Ill change that.

11:44 PM  
Anonymous kerry said...

Hi, I've enjoyed visiting your blog. I am trying to get my zen mp3 players site up and running. At the moment I am concentrating on the Zen Touch and Zen Sleek. Sadly, the Zen micro does not appear to still be available from Creative.

I've certainly got some way to go before that site meets the standards of your blog.

10:44 PM  
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