Including such a screen does have benefits, however, and allows Creative to squeeze a number of interesting extras, some genuinely useful, into the Mozaic. The first is a decent user interface: it’s identical to the one you get on the Zen and Zen X-Fi range of players and it’s a joy to use. Not only does it look nice, but it’s littered with useful features. Browsing a long list of tracks, for example, is a breeze thanks to an A-Z index that runs down the right-hand side of the screen. This allows you to not only scroll up and down track-by-track, but also to quickly skim through by initial letter, from A to B to C and so on. The pop-up context-sensitive menu system works well, allowing you to search by keyword, add tracks to dynamic playlists, and view track details. And the menu system can even be customised, items reordered and removed. It’s a much easier player to use than the Philips 3225/02 and, arguably, the best interface available on any player under £50.
The unusual tiled ‘mosaic’-style control panel works better than you might at first expect as well. Instead of the normal five way directional pad that you usually get on players of this ilk, the Mozaic is equipped with a nine-button pad. The centre button is a select button, as normal, and above and below and to the right and left are directional keys. In the corners are four more controls – back, menu, play/pause and a customisable shortcut key. Again, this makes it a far more pleasant device to use than the Philips.
In addition to the excellent usability, the Mozaic is a very nicely designed device. That black plastic finish, like the Zen Stone Plus, sparkles attractively under lights, and the tiled control panel sets it all off very nicely indeed. It’s small and light, too, and at just 40 x 80 x 13mm, fits in the hand comfortably.
Apart from the limited video capability, there are plenty of other toys to play with here. The Mozaic has an FM tuner with 32 presets, it has a built-in microphone for voice recording, you can display your holiday snaps on it and it also boasts a built-in speaker. The latter isn’t as gimmicky as it sounds. Yes, you can use it to annoy your fellow passengers on public transport, but in conjunction with the Mozaic’s clock/alarm function, you can also use it to wake you up in the morning. It’s worth pointing out, at this stage, that you can also use the Zen as a basic PIM, synchronising it with Outlook appointments, tasks and contacts with the bundled software.