Need to buy a gift for somebody who loves technology but you can’t afford the big ticket items?
Creative ZEN Mosaic EZ300 MP3 player
The new Creative ZEN Mosaic MP3 player adds little to the previous version
- Sturdy body, decent integrated speaker, acceptable bundled earphones
- Confusing controls, outdated and ugly interface
If you’re looking for a cheap MP3 player from a well-known brand, the Creative Mosaic EZ300 is an option. It is not one we would recommend though, with few quantifiable improvements over the earlier ZEN Mosaic and a feature list that looks markedly outdated next to competitors’ offerings.
Price$ 109.95 (AUD)
The Creative ZEN Mosaic EZ300 is a reasonably priced 4GB MP3 player with a basic feature set. It is out-classed by players costing only a small amount more, and even cheaper players have better interfaces and aesthetics.
With a similar form factor to the iRiver T6 MP3 player, the Creative ZEN Mosaic EZ300 is easy to hold. The buttons — laid out in a matte and glossy checkerboard pattern, giving the player its name — are large enough to press easily, but their layout isn’t particularly intuitive. For example, instead of holding the centre button to power the player on — in the absence of a dedicated power button, this seemed logical — we were confronted with a black screen. The play/pause button takes care of power functions but it is located on the bottom-right corner of the checkerboard, which is a puzzling choice.
The matte black plastic body is sturdy enough to resist knocks and scratches, but the player feels cheap and hollow. Similarly, the 1.8in, 128x160 pixel screen is acceptably bright for outdoor use but has a terrible viewing angle and a glossy fascia which catches reflections easily. A mini-USB connector joins the 3.5mm headphone jack on the player’s lower edge below the controls. Hidden on the player’s rear is the integrated mono speaker; we liked the speaker’s smooth sound, but it does not have a very high maximum volume.
The Creative ZEN Mosaic EZ300 is bundled with a pair of Creative-branded ear-buds. We liked the Creative EP-830 headphones that came with the Creative ZEN X-Fi MP3 player and while these bundled ear-buds aren’t up to that level of sound quality, they’re still fine for listening to compressed MP3 music or FM radio.
Sound quality from the Creative ZEN Mosaic EZ300 is fine for an entry-level MP3 player. We tested using the bundled earphones and some Creative Aurvana Air earphones and found the maximum volume to be more than loud enough for most situations. There’s no shortage of bass or treble and a versatile equaliser with a custom setting allows you to tailor the sound to your liking.
The interface of the Creative ZEN Mosaic EZ300 is based upon sub-menus, with each selection opening several new options. We think the iPod’s system of navigation does this well, but the ugly text and low resolution screen take the polish off Creative’s implementation.
The ZEN Mosaic EZ300 also has an integrated voice recorder and FM radio, both of which work well. The FM radio’s Auto Scan feature is useful, with 32 presets that covered all the major broadcasting stations in our test. A photo viewer and video player are also included. The photo player has a useful slideshow function, but the video player is little more than a novelty given the small screen and the need to transcode files to the Motion JPEG format through bundled Creative software.
The Creative ZEN Mosaic EZ300’s chief competitors come in the form of the Apple iPod Nano and the afore-mentioned iRiver T6. The iPod Nano may be $60 more expensive for an equivalent model, but we think that’s a justified price increase given its far superior interface, features and control scheme. The iRiver T6 is cheaper and while it has a similar feature set and menu layout, we prefer its design and navigation scheme.
The Creative ZEN Mosaic EZ300 is a competent MP3 player if you can devote a little time to learning its controls and menus. That said, there are many other competitors which are more intuitive and more refined for similar or lower prices.
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