Hands-On Review:Creative Zen Micro MP3 Player
Creative Zen Micro MP3 Player
Musical enlightenment for your ears
By Lonnie Welsh
All digital music players are not created equal. Consider, for instance, the tiny Zen Micro MP3 Player from Creative Labs. Now your favorite music need never be farther away than your front pocket, with great storage capacity and a ton of features packed into its tiny 2" x 3-1/3" x 3/4" size. Hey, Jackie Chan is a little guy and he definitely kicks it. When it comes to storing, organizing, and playing your music, the Zen Micro throws down its own unique brand of audio kung fu!
The Zen Micro holds 2,500 WMA songs (based on 4-minute song length) or 1,500 MP3 tunes on its internal 5GB hard drive. The unit connects to your PC's USB port and transfers material swiftly via USB 2.0, drawing its power from the USB port while it's connected. Just plug it in with the supplied cable, install the included Creative MediaSource software, and you're ready to import tunes. Simply open up MediaSource and drag and drop the tunes you want into the Zen. You can listen to songs on your computer before you transfer them to the Zen, and MediaSource lets you organize and title your songs and playlists easily.
Zen Micro supports the WMA music format, meaning you can access the greatest selection of tunes that the Internet has to offer (over 2 million songs!). Or you can rip tunes from your own CDs for custom mixes.
A sound investment
The sound quality is very clean and wide-spectrum, boasting a signal-to-noise ratio of 98dB—the best audio quality of any MP3 player! Eight EQ presets matching various musical styles from vocal to classical to rock are available. With a customizable five-band EQ option you can dial in your own personal EQ preference.
The player for players
There are some great tools for musicians here, including a built-in microphone and voice recorder. If a melody line comes to you while you're walking down the street, simply hit record, sing your phrase into the Zen, and you've captured your inspiration. In fact, with up to 10 hours of recording time, it'll hold your whole repertoire! Two meters on the screen register your recording levels, and the quality is good enough for you to record rehearsals or practice sessions for later reference. It's also perfect for taking notes or recording classes and music lessons.
Organizer software includes a calendar, address book, and to-do list. You can connect with Microsoft Express, allowing you to shuttle email addresses and calendar notes from your home or office PC.
Up close and personal
The Zen Micro's ergonomic curved shape lets it sit comfortably in the palm of your hand, and the rounded edges and corners let it ride comfortably in your pocket. The case comes in a choice of 10 electrified colors (black, white, silver, dark blue, light blue, red, purple, citrus orange, lime green, and pink). With its seductively luminescent blue screen and backlit buttons, it cuts an attractive figure. Navigating through Zen's menus is quite simple and is made even more so by letting you customize the menus and interface to your personal preferences. The controls are touch-sensitive. Running your finger down the Zen's vertical touch pad selects menu items, and a light tap enters your selection. Finding songs and playlists is easy and intuitive.
Select tracks yourself or let the Zen Micro's DJ play back your tracks in four different ways. Album of the Day plays an album selected at random, Random Play All plays all tracks randomly, including your recorded tracks. Most Popular plays your most often selected tracks, while Rarely Played gives seldom-played tracks a spin. A sleep timer function lets you specify a fixed time for the Zen Micro shut down, great for listening to music while you fall asleep. An alarm function can be set to wake you up.
FM radio to go
An internal FM tuner has 32 presets plus scan tuning for all your favorite sports, talk, and music programs, and it keeps you informed of traffic problems when you're on the road. In combination with the timed recording feature, you can even set it up to record your favorite shows.
The included Zen Media Explorer is another option for storing and transferring music and data files. You can par-tition a section of your drive ranging from 128MB to 1GB to use as a portable disk, making loading and swapping large blocks of material easy. Plug it into any PC's USB port and simply drag and drop files to and from the desktop—no software needed! Take your recording projects, samples, and more with you anywhere you go.
The removable battery that comes with the unit is good for a full 12 hours of music and, with the addition of an optional second battery, you could keep the Zen charged up all the time for nonstop musical enjoyment. The battery charges up fully with the included charger in a couple of hours.
A player with a difference
The Zen Micro is winning fans everywhere, taking CNET's Editors' Choice and Best of Digital Life 2004 awards. The final verdict—music buffs will love the Zen Micro and musicians and students will find that it's an incredibly useful tool.
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