Previous Zen digital audio players from Creative have proved it isn't afraid to take on Apple at its own game. Now, with the Creative Zen Micro, it's going head-to-head with the iPod Mini.
Design-wise, Creative has certainly got it right: the Zen Micro's smooth lines and curves, neat touchpad and attractive blue backlit LED screen, buttons and edges put it on a par with its rival. Available in 10 different colours - twice as many as the iPod Mini - it also betters Apple's device for storage capacity (5GB compared to the iPod Mini's 4GB). The Zen Micro also includes a built-in FM radio and in-the-box extras like titanium earbuds with wired remote control, plus a cradle with belt clip and stand - all for (at press time), $90 more than the iPod mini.
Comparisons aside, the Zen Micro is an excellent audio player in its own right. It's very simple to operate, with a vertical scrolling touchpad that has adjustable sensitivity levels. It's a bit like using a scrollwheel mouse. And the context menu button works in a similar way to a right-mouse click in Windows. Press it at any time for a dedicated menu, customised with options that apply directly to whatever function you're currently using. It's a neat touch that saves a lot of to-ing and fro-ing through menus.
The claimed battery life is 12 hours but we found it drained far quicker, even when it had been left to recharge overnight. Batteries are interchangeable, though, so you can simply slip in a new cell (optional) when the current one runs out of juice. And music isn't the Zen Micro's only talent. If you want to use the device as a removable disk drive, you can allot up to 2GB of the available space to storing data files.
In brief: The Creative's extra capacity, great styling and price tag make it an attractive option. Price: $489 Vendor: Creative Labs Phone: (02) 9021 9800 URL: www.au.creative.com