Next I fed the Zen with a couple of tracks from a new band I've discovered. Sowena plays an intriguing blend of acoustic guitars and reggae beats and its well-produced and recorded music is the perfect test of the Zen's capabilities. It excelled here to, jangling out the music with gay abandon.
Finally, I fed the Zen my usual selection of demanding classical works, from Mozart's Requiem to the dramatic opening to Mahler's 5th Symphony. And it coped here just as well, dispatching complex choral refrains and the huge dynamics of orchestral strikes with realism, impact and subtlety.
So, all-in-all, a rather impressive performance. It's a little disappointing that you can't drop video files with higher resolutions than the player's screen, and I'd like to have seen support for lossless codecs too, but the player's big, clean sound makes up for this and then some. If you're looking for an alternative to the iPod nano this alone should put the Zen at the top of your shortlist, and makes it well worth its recommended award.
Creative has come up trumps with its new, flash-based, mini media player. Pitched as a direct competitor to the iPod nano it beats it on most fronts with the one exception being that its physical controls aren't quite as nice to use. It comes in a greater range of capacities, has a larger screen and, importantly, isn't tied to iTunes or a proprietary cable for syncing and charging. It comes in at roughly the same price too, the 4GB version selling for just under £100.