Looking at the portable music player landscape, the Zen micro is probably the closest competitor to the imperious Apple iPod mini, so it strikes us as rather big news that developer Creative has stepped it up into the big boy’s league with an increased capacity of 20GB.
All of which makes it a little strange that Creative seems to be a little coy over the introduction. Initial details are out on its website but as yet no announcement and no fanfare. We’re also not convinced about the ropey product shot (below) either as the latest Zen micros come with colour screens (as we reported from CeBIT) and this shows a mono display, which would be kinda odd for what will be a flagship product. Don't rule it out though...
Never mind, we venture on determined to build up our own atmosphere for what we think will become a primary mover and shaker in the marketplace. First, however, we must deal with the mythical 10,000 tracks figure Creative quotes for its 20GB baby. It is possible to fit this many on but only if you want your ears to rip off your head and run away in disgust at the 64Kb/sec sampling rate that would give you such a figure. No, 5,000 tracks at 128Kb/sec is a much more realistic figure.
Moving on, the screen is quoted as being 1.65in, which is smaller than the current 4G iPods (2in), but frustratingly (and critically) measurements and weight were not given out so this may be due to a smaller form factor than its Apple rival? Time will tell.
Battery life is low at a quoted 11 hours, less than the - in itself disappointing - 12 hours on the iPod. That said, the iPods are infamous for giving listeners closer to six or eight hours in real world use, so again we’ll give the Zen the benefit of the doubt here.
Sound quality should be excellent with a signal to noise ratio of less than 96dB which is the same excellent level as in the micros, while frequency response is wide being from 20Hz to 20kHz. Naturally, the new Zen has a USB2.0 interface (backwards compatible with USB1.1) while supported media formats are MP3, WMA as well as IMA’s ADPCM lossy compression technology.
The FM radio, built in voice recorder and Microsoft Outlook synching capabilities have all been carried over from the micro as has the interface (which, for my money, is one of the most intuitive out there). Like the great majority of memory based players, the Zen can also be used as a storage device should you wish to cart non audio files around. No word on availability or pricing yet, but you can bet it won't be long and that Creative is going to want to undercut the iPods just a little…
So let the battle commence. As always, we’ll update you with further details and photography as we get it.
Finally, a snippet of news. Apparently - given the step up to 20GB - the "micro" part of the name will be dropped. Still no word on its size or weight (which, for us, is the biggie). Better than nothing, though.