First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
- — 01 April, 2000 11:33
Its light weight makes it extremely portable and, with no moving parts, it can be enjoyably listened to even through the most rigorous activities.
Unlike similar players, such as Diamond's Rio 500, the Nomad II has no onboard memory of its own; instead, it relies solely on the use of one removable SmartMedia card, giving it a maximum capacity of 64MB. This capacity is enough for one hour of CD quality music (assuming you encode your MP3s at 128Kbps). Creative supplies Digital Audio Centre's MusicMatch for ripping, playing back and organising your MP3s. The software is very easy to use, and has a clear and well laid out interface. Ripping a song (playing time of 4 minutes) using a 40x CD-ROM drive will take roughly 30 seconds. The playback quality at 128Kbps on the Nomad II is excellent, with no noticeable sound deterioration on the low or high frequencies. Little wonder, as the Nomad II boasts a signal-to-noise ratio of 95dB.
Installing the player is a straightforward task thanks to the inclusion of an auto-loading software CD and the clear instructions in the documentation. The first time you connect the player to your computer, you will be asked to manually install its drivers; if you follow the steps in the manual you will be up and running within a few seconds. A USB interface is used to connect the player to a PC, which makes hardware detection and installation simple. It also allows for fast and reliable data transmissions - loading the player with approximately 64MB of data will take you roughly six minutes on a modestly configured computer.
Using the Nomad II is fairly simple once you understand the conventions that are used. Physical controls are located on the front of the player as well as on the sides, and all are standard controls, such as play, pause, skip, stop, repeat, digital signal processing (equaliser) and volume controls; there are also record and erase buttons. The latter is a very useful feature that allows you to remove an unwanted song from your player instantly without having to first hook it up to your PC, while the former is used to initiate voice recordings.
A highly configurable software interface comes on the Nomad II, so you can tweak settings such as the contrast level of the display, the on time of the screen's illumination, and the delay before the player automatically shuts off. An FM sleep function will shut off the player after a set amount of time, and the player can also be personalised (I named mine "Budgie"!). To access the settings, press the menu button located on the player, to which you can navigate using the function controls (play, stop, skip).
The backlit display is large and displays a wealth of information while a song is playing, such as artist, title and encoding rate. As well, the display shows elapsed time, battery level, volume level, current digital signal processing (equaliser) setting and playing mode.
All the usual playing modes are included (e.g., repeat one, repeat all and repeat random). The Nomad II also has five equaliser settings: pop, classic, jazz, rock and a user defined setting. The player sounds good even when the equaliser is not switched on.
The supplied back phones (headphones that wrap around the back of your head) attach to a remote unit that allows you to manipulate the playback and volume of the Nomad II even if it's safely tucked away in your pocket or carry bag. A hold switch lets you disable the controls on the remote, and a hold switch on the player has the same effect on its controls. They are separate switches, though, controlling only their respective devices, and are used to provide an uninterrupted listening experience - inadvertently hitting the stop button while listening to your favourite track will have no effect.
A single AA-sized battery is the power source for the device, with longevity stated at eight to 10 hours. In my battery test, I ran my play list over and over at the maximum volume level: a new Energizer straight out of the packet lasted eight hours and 21 minutes (not including file transfers).
All in all, the Nomad II is an attractive little gadget with versatility and user friendliness. It is billed as a future-proof device, being upgradable with future audio standards such as Windows Media Audio (WMA), and is also SDMI compliant (Secure Digital Music Initiative).
Distributor: Creative Labs Australia
Phone: (02) 9666 6100