Where the ipod has iTunes, the Zen has Napster. To use the Napster-to-Go software you’ll need to upgrade the firmware, which is available on Creative’s web site. Apparently the reason this isn’t Napster-to-Go compatible out-of the-box is becasue this would make it PC only. I can’t envisage any Mac owner buying a Creative player, though I suppose it’s got to have hope.
If you want to use the player as a removable storage device for general data, you can. To do so you have to go into the player and assign a dedicated amount of space to data and then connect the player to the PC when in the ‘Removable Disk’ menu.
Sound quality wise the Creative is satisfying with a good meaty sound. There are a number of EQ settings and a separate bass boost though this is buried in the menus instead of always available from the context button - an opportunity missed.
So should you buy the Zen Sleek? If you want access to Napster-to-Go, already have a very large collection of WMAs and can’t be bothered to re-encode, or just want a radio with your player, then yes. Despite its title, it’s not as sleek or sexy as an iPod but at least you can take satisfaction you’re not following the crowd.
Not an iPod beater in terms of style or ease of use, but for large hard disk based storage this is a respectable challenger. A colour screen would have been nice and software to truly rival iTunes would have been icing on the cake but this is still a very decent, if unexciting, MP3 player.