Thursday, August 07, 2008

Creative Zen: useless for listening to podcasts, books etc

Summary: if you want an MP3 player for listening to podcasts, documentaries or anything where you might to resume from you left off then avoid the Creative Zen.

I bought a Creative Zen (not a "Zen M" or a "Zen V", just a "Zen" - well done Creative on picking a name that is almost impossible to search for without finding all of your other products!). It's quite a nice little device, with a nice screen and a slick UI but unfortunately it makes we want to scream.

If you're listening to an hour long MP3 and you turn off the device, you'd expect it to resume the MP3 where you left off. You'd expect the same when you switch to the radio. Alas the Zen does neither of these. If you turn it off, it remembers for about an hour but then it turns itself off completely and when you turn back on you'll be at 0:00:00. Same when you switch to the radio or watch a video or god knows what else.

The Zen does have 10 bookmark slots but you have to go through a series of button clicks in order to mark your place and if you forget to do that before switching to the radio, tough luck.

It really is quite mind-boggling how such a basic bit of usability could have been left out. I assume they spent all their time making sure all of the album-art and other fluff worked properly. What's more frustrating is that my previous player was a creative MuVo, a far less sophisticated memory-stick style player that always remembered exactly where I was. I would have bought another if they weren't about 30 quid dearer than its video-playing cousin.

Worse still, I borrowed a Creative Zen Stone for a few days. It's a much simpler device than the Zen, much more like the MuVo except without the ability to plug directly into a USB port. In fact, the Stone seems to be pretty much identical to the MuVo in its functionality, including remembering where I am in the current track. At about half the price of the Zen, I'm really annoyed that I was tempted into buying the flashier model.

It seems to me that there are at least 2 development teams in Creative, one that does the video devices and one that does the audio-only. Unfortunately the video team don't seem to have looked at the audio devices when figuring out what matters.

While I'm complaining, I may as well point out that the Zen only works as an MTP device and cannot be used as a straight-forward USB disk and bizarrely, if you transfer an MP3 file using the linux MTP command-line tools, the Zen cannot figure out how long the track is and so you cannot seek forwards or backwards! So I have to Gonad or Gnomad or whatever it's called.

One slight bright point is that Creative's support responded quickly to my query, confirmed that the functionality was indeed missing and they had passed on my comments to the developers. Of course they could just be saying that but at least it was prompt!

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