Creative has had a mixed ride in our minds through the minefield that is the MP3 market. Dogged by cheap looking players compared to the competition, it’s nice to see that its latest player, the Zen Micro, has broken away its past efforts.
With more hard drive space than the iPod Mini - the Zen Micro offers 5Gb (roughly the equivalent of 1200 MP3 tracks), this player like the Rio Carbon certainly aims to offer more for your money, but can it break out of the “almost an iPod label” that so many MP3 players now seem to fall into.
Available in ten colours: Purple, dark blue, silver, light blue, green, orange, red, white, black and of course pink Creative are hoping that there will be a colour to suit everyone.
Get past the pretty colours and the player is a small and compact unit smaller, but thicker than the iPod Mini. Turned upside down, the unit resembles a bug or tortoise. That means apart from the power switch, headphone jack and USB2.0 socket for transferring music to and from a PC on the top of the unit, the rest of the body has been left untouched.
Perhaps wanting to avoid the same criticism that Apple has received over access to the battery, Creative has made the Lithium Ion battery very accessible on the rear of the player and like most mobile phones its simply done by sliding the back of the case off. Battery life is promised at 12 hours on a full charge for MP3 playback, the same as the new iPod and we had trouble proving this figure wrong.
Like its bigger brother, the Zen Touch, the Zen micro is controlled via a sliding control touch pad. This means that keys lay flat, are easily kept clean, as well as not adding to the overall style of the unit. The display screen is big enough to take on the Zen Touch interface rather than the interface used in Creative’s smaller players and this like the Touch is virtually identical to the Apple iPod. Easy to use, the interface offers quick access to all the usual data: playlists, songs, artists and more.
Music quality is very good with plenty of bass on the tracks we tested. Also surprisingly for an MP3 player, the headphones supplied in the box also did a very good job. We tested it with everything from Bob Dylan to Basement Jaxx and experienced no problems. Even better you can actually get some volume out of this unit meaning you don't have to have the volume at its highest setting. Extra features include a FM radio, microphone and the ability to turn a portion of the drive into a storage area.
It's nice to see a manufacturer every once in a while, realising that the product they have isn't necessarily the best at what it does. Creative took the design and the interface back to the drawing board to improve it and should reap the rewards from buyers not wanting an iPod. The only real downside we can see is its reliance on Media Centre or Creative's own Media Source software for transferring files rather than taking Rio's approach of being drag and drop. The player now feels likes it's not only worth the money, but worthy to be a contender against both the Rio Carbon and more importantly the iPod Mini.