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MP3 Player Review – The Creative Zen Nano by jimmycanuck
October 5, 2006, 5:05 pm
Filed under: gadgets, reviews, shopping

ZenNano

I scored a fantastic deal over the weekend – a brand new 512MB Creative Zen Nano for $44.97, courtesy of the Wal-Mart Anniversary Celebration. As anyone who’s had to buy socks, toothpaste or a cat food in the past week knows, Wal-Mart Canada has been celebrating it’s 10th anniversary with one hell of a blowout sale. It puts boxing day, store closings, and rampant looting to shame. You couldn’t have gotten a better deal if you had a painter’s mask and a .45.

The Zen Nano is Creative’s entry into the lower-end pocket mp3 player market, in direct competition with the iPod Shuffle. Unlike the Shuffle though, the Nano offers a display, a voice recorder, and a host of other features.

The display, it’s biggest advantage over the Shuffle, offers as much information as you can squeeze into such a tiny space. Unfortunately the ultra-small screen size means that some sacrifices had to be made. – in this case you’re losing the artist name from the display. Not that big of a deal, but it’s a little irritating when you’ve filled the Nano by shuffling from your collection and a song comes on that you’ve never heard. You’ll spend the afternoon trying to figure out where the hell it’s from. Of course if you’re really that concerned, you can always just remember the name of the song that pops up on the display and figure it out when you get home (or just speak it into the voice recorder so you don’t forget!) Asides from that one minor complaint though, the screen is solid. It’s big enough to be easily read, displays all the other data you’d expect (song title, time, pause/play, and even which EQ setting you’ve chosen) and has a soft blue backlighting that makes reading the display simple in any lighting.

The design is quite slick as well. It’s not much larger than a cigarette lighter, and it’s placed the majority of it’s controls on the side, not that there are many controls to be had on such a tiny guy. The only button on the face of the player is the play/pause button that also doubles as the power button. On the side are a volume up, volume down, and what I can only describe (and I pray apple doesn’t sue me for this) as a click wheel. But unlike the “click wheel” made famous by the iPod, this is merely a wheel that you rotate up or down to skip through your tracks. To access the Nano’s on-screen menu, you just press on the wheel, and from their it’s easy navigation with the up and down rotation and a click on the wheel to make selections.

One of the things I didn’t expect to find when exploring the menu’s was a selection of EQ options. There are 4 presets (Rock, Pop, Classical and Jazz) and an option for Custom EQ. The Custom EQ makes all the difference in the world – with a little tweaking, you can get exactly the sound you want out of this little guy,

The voice recorder is pretty handy as well. If you’re forgetful like me, it’s a godsend. I’ve actually found myself using it on a daily basis. After all, how is one supposed to remember things like “garbage goes IN the garbage can” unless they have a recording of themselves saying it that sounds like it was made on a shitty 4 track from the 1970’s?

I actually love the voice recorder – not just for it’s usefulness, but for how little it interferes with the primary use of the player. If I’m wandering around the mall listening to O&A,and I see a great deal I want to post about over at I can switch to the voice recorder, make my note, and switch back to my listening without missing a beat. It picks up exactly where it left off in the track I was listening to.

Despite all the praise I’ve been heaping on this item, I do have a few complaints. From what I can tell, the Nano doesn’t support playlists. Personally this isn’t so much a problem for me, but I can see how this would bother some people. However it does support sorting your tunes into folders, so if your like me and keep your albums well organized by starting file names with track numbers, you’ll have no problem keeping everything in order. As as example, I have three folders set up on my Nano – Albums, Talk, and Random. Under albums, I put folders containing complete albums, Under Talk I put podcasts and O&A, and under Random I put whatever I shuffle off my laptop. Easy peasy organization that totally works for me.

The only other complaints I have are rather minor and self-explanatory, so they won’t require much elaboration. The Nano needs a mini-USB cable (which is provided in the box) to transfer tunes to it. Considering that it is more than small enough to place a USB jack right on it (as they do on some RCA Lyra’s) it may be a little inconvenient for some to have to dig out a cable every time they want to load up their player. The outer casing, despite it’s cool appearance, is very prone to permanent scratches. After only 24 hours in my possession, there were a number of hairline scratches in the finish. Not cool. Also – the included headphones are shit.

My last complaint is a simple one – the Nano doesn’t come with a built in rechargeable battery. It might not seem like much, but considering the vast number of options out there for gadgets with built in batteries, it just seems silly that the Nano doesn’t have one. That being said, most people who would own a product like this probably have a rechargeable battery setup in their house anyway, so throwing a rechargeable AAA in it isn’t too much of a chore for most of us to begin with. I’m also proud to say that the battery life has lived up to what was advertised. I’m well over 15 hours of use so far, and we’re still ticking away. I expected about 18 hours, and I’d be surprised if it crapped out before then.

Overall, this is a fantastic investment for someone looking for a low end mp3 player. If you can’t find one at the discount price this week at Wal-Mart and your stuck paying the MSRP, I suggest upgrading to the Zen Nano Plus. The price difference is negligible, and it comes with an FM Radio and a Line-In option for those of you looking to fill this thing from low-tech sources. There are probably some other great features that have completely slipped my mind, like the Nano can also be used to like a thumb drive to store non-music files. If there’s anything else I’m missing, fantastic or otherwise, I apologize. But all in all, this is a great player at a great price. Especially this week at Wal-Mart Canada. The last day of the sale is tomorrow – October 6th.

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[…] For those of you who read my review of the Creative Zen Nano and were disappointed you didn’t get one while the getting was good, fret not.  While I was at Wal-Mart, I discovered that not only do they still have them in stock, but they’re still at the price they were during the anniversary sale – $44.96.  This looks to be the new permenant price, so if you’re in the market for a cheap but decent mp3 player, this is probably the way to go.  I’m enjoying it so much that I’m actually starting to lose interest in picking up a Zune. […]

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[…] A Creative Zen Nano is a splendid Christmas gift for someone interested in listening to music. According to JimmyCanuck, the Zen is still on sale for $44.96 at Wal-Mart which is a good price compared to iPods. Here’s what Jimmycanuck had to say: For those of you who read my review of the Creative Zen Nano and were disappointed you didn’t get one while the getting was good, fret not. While I was at Wal-Mart, I discovered that not only do they still have them in stock, but they’re still at the price they were during the anniversary sale – $44.96. This looks to be the new permenant price, so if you’re in the market for a cheap but decent mp3 player, this is probably the way to go. I’m enjoying it so much that I’m actually starting to lose interest in picking up a Zune. If there was anything else on at a great price during the sale that you regret not grabbing, I say go an check the price. After all, those awful Digitec DVD players are still going for $24.76. Published by Boo Radley November 3rd, 2006 in Canadian Deals & Coupons […]

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