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Creative Zen 4GB - Creative Zen
The Zen betters the iPod nano in other ways too. First, it's available in larger capacities. I was sent the 4GB version to review, but it also comes in 8GB and 16GB capacities - the nano stops at 8GB, where the much larger Touch takes over - and there's an SD card expansion slot too, so in theory you could take the memory complement up to an impressive 12GB, which is the same as some lower capacity hard disk-based players.
Other reasons to buy the Zen before the nano include an FM tuner, the ability to charge and transfer files with a standard USB to mini-USB cable rather than a proprietary one, and the fact that you're not tied to iTunes for file transfer and device management. You can use the bundled Creative Media Explorer or Windows Media Player if you want to listen to DRM tracks; or any other music management software you care to mention if you've been sensible enough to simply buy CDs and rip them yourself. You can also simply drag and drop files to the player if you wish - it'll even warn you if the files you're attempting to copy aren't supported by the Zen as you do so.
Battery life is slightly better than the nano's as well, at a quoted 25 hours for audio and five hours for video, though note you'll only get the former if you play 128kbps MP3s continuously with no track skipping or other navigation. There's no search function, however, which is one of the few advantages the nano holds over the Zen.
Once you've got your music and video onto the Zen, navigating through the attractive-looking menu system is very straightforward. The four way d-pad isn't as nice to use as the nano's click wheel, and the rest of the buttons' aren't instantly intuitive either thanks to the fact they have rather ambiguous symbols on them. However, after a short while you'll be flicking around from screen to screen and creating playlists on the fly without a second thought. One excellent feature common to this and other Creative players is index navigation: click right on the device's d-pad and you can then navigate by initial letter. This makes it a snip to navigate long lists quickly. Another nice touch is the Album of the Day feature which, on a click, chooses a random selection of tracks from a random album and plays them. It's an excellent idea and a good feature for in-pocket operation, allowing a quick change of theme without the need to look at the screen.
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