The Hardware

As seen in Figure 3, the Creative Zen at 3.26" x 2.16" (82.8 x 54.86 mm) is almost exactly the same dimensions as a credit card. Yet, at 0.44” (11.17 mm), it is thick enough to feel good in the hand and has enough heft to keep it from getting totally lost in a stack of paper.

Creative Zen MP3 Player ReviewFigure 3: The Zen has the same height and width as a credit card.

As shown in Figure 4, the Zen has a clear and crisp 2.5" color TFT display, which handles 320 x 240 pixels and 16.7 million colors. This player does not rotate the screen like some others. The screen is always viewable in the horizontal position.

Creative Zen MP3 Player ReviewFigure 4: The front of the Zen.

Although we have seen a bubble-gum pink version of the Zen, the black version that we reviewed is more sophisticated–looking and more widely available. The back of the Zen has a nice matt finish to thwart fingerprints, while the front is shiny black.

As seen in Figure 5, there are three small, but quite useable controls on the Zen. At the top is a two-way rocker. When you press the left side of this control, you go back to the previous screen. Pressing the right of this button is somewhat like right-clicking on a computer. It brings up a contextual menu of functions that you can perform from your current screen.

Creative Zen MP3 Player ReviewFigure 5: The Zen controls.

Under the first rocker control button is a square four-way control surrounding a center select button. This is used to scroll through and choose selections as well as to perform functions like increasing and/or decreasing the volume.

Underneath this is another two-way rocker. The left side of this rocker acts as a shortcut button. The functionality of this button can be customized by the user. It can be programmed to start/stop a recording, to random play, to play the album of the day, or to switch to the album view. It can also be set to bring up the volume controls, but we didn’t see much use for this as the volume can always be controlled by pressing the up or down areas of the square control when playing music or videos.

The only other controls on the Zen are found on the right side of the device. As shown in Figure 6, this side has a mini-USB port for connecting it to the computer, an on/off switch which has a nice blue light when in the on position, and a standard microphone port. We found the on/off switch to be very useful, especially after having had difficulty turning some iPods off.

Creative Zen MP3 Player ReviewFigure 6: The side of the Zen.

The top of the Zen has a small reset hole as well as a SD card slot, as shown in Figure 7. The Zen comes in 2 GB, 4 GB, 8 GB, 16 GB and 32 GB capacities. The support for an SD expansion card, however, give the user added room for expansion. The slot supports both regular and HD SD cards up to 16 GB, giving the unit plenty of room for expansion.

Creative Zen MP3 Player ReviewFigure 7: The top of the Zen.


Sandy Berger, respected computer authority, journalist, media guest, speaker, and author, has more than three decades of experience as a computer and technology expert. Her eight books include: How to Have a Meaningful Relationship with Your Computer, Your Official Grown-up’s Guide to AOL and the Internet, Cyber Savers –Tips & Tricks for Today’s Drowning Computer Users, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Better Living through Technology, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to the Internet, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Gadgets & Gizmos, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Health & Wellness, and Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Travel. Sandy’s newspaper column, magazine articles, feature stories, product reviews, and computer tips can be found at her website, Compu-KISS.