It seems these days you can’t write a review of a large hard-drive MP3 player without commenting about Apple. There - we’ve already done it. But it's not a real surprise that one finds themselves talking about Apple when it comes to the Creative Zen Touch.
For starters it’s white, it offers 20Gb of storage and the main control mechanism isn’t a touch circle a la the iPod but instead a touch strip. Aside from this direct comparisons the Zen Touch (I almost called it the iTouch then) is a solidly build unit that performs well. The casing unlike many of the Creative MP3 feels weighty and worth the money.
The unit is well designed and stylish. The top offers the headphones socket alongside a USB2.0 jack, which can also act as a charger when connected to a PC, and a hold button. On one side the controls allow you to control power on and off and volume and the other offers a DC power input to charge the built in Lithium Ion battery. Creative boast 24 hours playtime per charge and we had trouble disproving it.
The rest of the controls have been placed to the front. Centred on the front of the player is a large mono LCD display, that offers a blue backlight when need be, and a selection of six buttons giving you access to some of the players controls. A nice inclusion here is a random button that will set the player into shuffle through your entire collection on the disc.
The most interesting aspect of the player though is the touch pad control strip that runs down the front of the player. Working in an identical way to the Apple iPod’s Click Wheel, anyone who has ever used it will feel right at home.
Testing it out during the time we had it, the input method works very well and the up/down motion maybe easier for some to master than the circular motion of the wheel. Added to the top of the touch strip is an OK button allowing to select whatever you’ve glided over, although you can actually set up the strip to act as a double click as well. Admittedly it took a couple of attempts to get it right - the usual case of over shooting the mark, but this is down to sensitivity - something, which again can be changed in the settings.
Get past the outside and the menu system is very easy to use - using what seems to be the same interface as other creative players you can arrange tracks in all the usual ways - album, artist and genre but unlike other creative players you actually get a big enough screen to see what is going on and scrolling using the touch strip made navigation even easier.
Offering something the iPod doesn't, the Zen Touch also has the option of including a FM radio, as well as a voice and FM recorder although this is a separate cost (£40) however this doesn’t come in the box.
There is no question about it, the player is very nice, sound good and performs well, however its not with out its faults. There is currently no Apple Mac. Will you buy this one over the iPod? It's a close call. They both cost the same amount, and for everything they both offer it will really come down to personal taste, what OS you are running and whether or not you fancy scrolling your finger up and down to select tracks or around in circles.