More importantly than this, though, is that the Zen Nano is a great-sounding player. It may not look serious on the outside, but plug in a pair of decent headphones and youâ€™re presented with sound quality whose detail, depth, separation and clarity belies the playerâ€™s looks. Ben Foldsâ€™ exuberant piano playing is rendered crisply and cleanly, the player deals just as well with the harsh guitar-driven sound of Franz Ferdinand while the smooth vocals harmonies of Kings of Convenienceâ€™s Homesick are well-defined and richly reproduced. In comparison, iriverâ€™s T20 sounds muddy and over-warm, and can prove tiresome when listening for long periods.
Even the supplied earbuds are reasonably good â€“ a lot better than most headphones that come supplied with MP3 players and a world away from the iriver T20â€™s. Needless to say they can be improved upon and it wasnâ€™t long before I was reaching for my trusty Koss PortaPros. Additional features include an FM tuner â€“ a nice to have but not really a killer feature â€“ and, more usefully, recording via both line-in and a built-in microphone. As with the iriver T20, you can set the Zen Nano to sense breaks in tracks automatically.
Unfortunately thereâ€™s no getting away from the Zen Nanoâ€™s weaknesses and these are more serious than its slightly dubious appearance. Unforgivably, the Zen Nano does not allow you to browse through the collection of music files on the device while listening to music at the same time. You have to remember whatâ€™s on it because once you use the skip folder function it simply interrupts what youâ€™re listening to and moves you on to the first track in that folder.
Battery life is quoted at a healthy 18 hours and Iâ€™d see no reason to argue with that. But power is supplied via a single AAA battery â€“ if you want rechargeable youâ€™ll have to buy your own charger and battery set, and thatâ€™s going to bump the price up.
Finally, although the most popular compression formats are supported â€“ MP3 and WMA â€“ the Nano will not cope with Ogg files, which are becoming increasingly popular for their sound quality to file size ratio.
I really wanted to like the Creative Zen Nano. The critical factor - its sound quality- is excellent, it is generally easy to use and on top of this it has a decent pair of headphones in the box. It is also light, rugged and very small.
But despite all of this, its looks, the irritating lack of a browse feature and the absence of rechargeability out of the box undermines all of the good work. And at Â£65 Iâ€™m afraid to say it isnâ€™t exactly the best value 512MB player around either.