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on 20 September 2010
After 5 years of use, the on/off switch stopped working properly on my old Creative zen micro. This, and the fact I was running out of memory, forced me to look into buying a new player. I read a lot of reviews and did a lot of research on various mp3 players but in the end I stuck with Creative due to my past positive experience with the zen micro (which I loved) and due to their reputation for good sound quality. This review is based on the 16gb version with the latest firmware downloaded.


I won't go into detail as these are well documented in the description but the player lets you play music (various file formats supported), videos, and view photos. There's also an RSS reader, FM radio (which sounds good if you can get decent reception), microphone and a built in speaker, which is nothing to write home about but you wouldn't expect a speaker of this size to be. The player itself is small, light and looks good. The screen is clear, bright and colourful.

*Ease of use*

After using the scroll wheel of i-pods and the touch-pad of the zen micro, I was a bit apprehensive about the buttons on the player, but thankfully they do the job pretty well, and are preferable over a scroll-wheel/touch pad in some ways as they are more precise. My only criticism is that the buttons could be a bit easier to press down, but this is only a minor complaint and they work perfectly well. The plus side is that this means there's no need to lock the player, as the buttons never get pressed accidently in your pocket, so if you want to change the volume or skip the track quickly all you have to do is take the player out of your pocket and press the up/down button (volume whilst a track is playing) or the right direction button (next track). Having said that, locking the player turns the screen off and saves battery life so this might be preferable. This is done simply by pressing the on/off switch once (holding it down for a couple of seconds turns the player off).

The menu system is almost identical to my previous zen micro which is a very good thing, as it's really easy to use. You can also customise the menu. For example, I've put artists at the top, as this is what I use most. When you're in the artist menu you can click on the right direction button and scroll down to the the letter of the alphabet you need to access the artist you want quicker, which saves you having to scroll down through the entire list of artists. You can change the background to one of the 6 different themes or if you like you can load a picture onto the player and set that as the background instead, so it's very customisable.

One really useful feature is the shortcut button, which you can assign to pretty much anything you want, i.e. volume/now playing/random play all/turn on speaker etc. I have this set to 'now playing' as you get direct access to the volume from there as well.

In terms of getting music onto the player this is really simple. You can just drag and drop files onto the player, or use a piece of organiser software like windows media player or the bundled software, creative centrale (which isn't as bad as most people make out). It amazes me that someone gave this player a one star review based on the centrale software alone; if you don't like it, you don't need to use it!

*Sound quality*

The sound quality is excellent. The optional x-fi crystalliser (which is meant to restore detail lost during compression of digital music) works pretty well. I wouldn't say it makes a *massive* difference, and the player sounds good with or without the crystalliser on, but it definitely makes the low and high end clearer and brings tracks to life a bit. I tend to have it set around 30-40%, as if you set it too high music tends to sound a bit overproduced. There's also an expander which is supposed to replicate a live/on stage sound, but I don't really use this. There's also a customisable equaliser as well as a few presets. The bundled earphones are ok but I'd go for a better pair if you don't already own some. I use Creative EP-630's which you can pick up pretty cheaply but sound great, as do Sennheiser CX-300's (I'd buy from a reputable place though as due to their popularity there are a lot of convincing fakes knocking around).

*Video/photo viewer*

I bought this as a music player so I haven't used these features much. However, photos and videos actually look very good despite the player not having a particularly high resolution screen, and although I wouldn't watch anything for long on a screen this size it's nice to have this as an option. My personal view is that mp3 players are for playing music; I can't see why anyone would buy an mp3 player to watch videos on as the screens are relatively small even on larger players, but that's just my opinion :)


Overall, I'm really pleased with this mp3 player. It ticks all the boxes; It's easy to use, has great sound quality, and is small and light for putting in your pocket. It's also worth mentioning that this player cost me considerably less than my zen micro did 5 years ago, yet it has over 3 times the memory, better sound and more features. Great value in my opinion. If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask.

Update: I'd definitely recommend going into recovery mode and performing a clean-up if you've added a lot of music onto your player in one go like I did, this speeded up the interface noticeably (it now seems to be running as fast as when I first got it). I'll probably do this periodically to keep the system running quickly.
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on 1 July 2011
My Zen Vision M has been one of the best things I have ever bought, and is still giving me great service, but the massive weight saving was the thing that made me look at the X-Fi Style. Wow! I can't believe the capacity and the sound quality this 56 gram midget has to offer. I wanted the 32GB version, which Amazon don't list, so I got it direct from the Creative store at a great price. There are many similarities to my old player thank goodness but also one or two improvements such as the ease of navigation. The Centrale software is a bit naff but once you're used to it's foibles, it does the job adequately. It's a real pity the superb Vision M software won't work with this player, but I guess you can't have everything.

The X-Fi Crystaliser certainly seems to make a positive difference to the sound but needs to be used very carefully. Just one click on a scale of ten is all that's required or else the music starts to sound unnaturally sibilant. However I'm not too sure what this control does that the EQ adjustment doesn't and I'm wondering whether the two settings maybe conflict. But you'll have fun experimenting anyway.

Now for a real moan. Why o' why do Creative insist on putting a sticker over the screen. Yes it comes off easily enough but then leaves behind an adhesive smear that's impossible to get off properly before applying a screen protector film!
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on 7 August 2011
I agree with the 5* comments above and would add:
- the bookmark function is excellent: you can set up to 10 and when you choose one it returns to the middle of the track where you set it: fantastic for long podcasts!
- when you shut down the player - if a song is playing - on start up it will resume where you were
- while a song is playing, you can browse to another song and when you select it you are offered 'Add to Selected' in addition to Play. If you 'Add to Selected' it is just queued and will play in due course (I don't think ipods can do this).
- the screen is bright & clear - the sound quality is excellent. An mp3 ripped from CD at 384bps seems almost indistinguishable (to me) through a good amp & speakers to the original CD.
- navigation is easy & intuitive
- the unit is just the right weight (just over 50g) to be easy to carry but not so tiny that the screen is too small
- I prefer these controls to touch controls - more positive

Creative Centrale seems rubbish on XP - truncated a lot of artist/album names, did not read a playlist on the device.... but the good news is that on Windows the free (Standard Edition) 'Media Monkey' works brilliantly - playlists, listings and is a superb piece of software - much better than Centrale & does everything that I would want.

Because the device shows up as an external hard drive you can use it with any OS if you don't mind browsing its folders. I'm pretty sure it needs mp3 tags to be ID3v2.3 (not v2.4) - so if you use say Easytag in Linux go to settings and change to v2.3.

It is in addition recognised as a Media Player in later versions of Ubuntu (v11.04) and Linux Mint (v11) - so is automatically visible in eg Rhythmbox (though playlists are not seen there - yet). (I think it needs libmtp to be v1.0.6 or later - I tried updating an older LM9 to this version but failed because of various dependencies - maybe an expert could do it - otherwise I suggest just using these later Linux distributions. I wouldn't bother too much trying to edit playlists for now in Linux (the playlists use the old 8.3 format so hard to deal with in a text editor)).

It's worth getting the 16GB version - ample for most of us (as opposed to other Creative players where an added SD Card is possible - but is very poorly integrated and a hassle to use - and slow to access when loading).

Overall - totally satisfied.

Suggestion to Creative: contribute to the libmtp project!
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on 1 January 2011
Where do I start with this player? It is so good it's unbelievable. This is my 2nd Creative product & it is brilliant, much better than an Ipod which are a lot more expensive. The player is easy to use, the Creative Centrale PC software is actually a doddle to use & it actually works now so I can rip CD after CD instead of having to shut the program down every time I want to rip a CD, good to see that's been fixed. The player itself is nice & easy, simple to use, nothing complicated, comes with locking features,easy navigation so it's not hard to find the song your after. With regards to the X-Fi Crystalizer feature believe me it's worth getting the player for this feature it is mindblowing. I don't even need an equalizer now because the X-Fi feature brings your music back to it's best,it really does work. My songs sound amazing & compliment that with the Bass Boost setting & it just gets even better. It can be tinkered with to suit you so that it's set just right. I listen to a wide variety of music & it all sounds like it's come fresh from a studio. Brilliant,well done Creative. I am so pleased with my purchase & with 16GB of memory to use I don't think I'll be changing for a while,not that I need to because the battery life is phenomenal. All in all a fantastic player, I can't recommend it enough!! Definite buy if you like your music in all it's glory.
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on 7 January 2012
Having looked for some time to purchase an MP3 player with a good sized SD (16gb) card in it. I came across this little gem of an MP3 player. The Zen X-fi and now having put alot of music on it. I still find that there is lots of room left to put more on it. The sound quality is excellent to and with the X-fi equaliser turned on the sound is full on with good treble and bass expansion. I would certainly recommend this to anyone who is in the market for a MP3 player. Although the screen size for watching videos can give you eye strain. So I wouldn't recommend it for watching videos for to long a time on it. But all in all it does what it says on the tin so to speak and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone. The other thing I would recommend with this is to not use the supplied headphones. But to go out and purchase another set of head phones to use with it. I brought the ATH-ES55 Audio-technica head phones with this and they sound much better than the ones that came with the player,
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on 2 October 2011
Having spent the last five years enjoying the excellent Creative Zen V Plus 8GB I was most disappointed when my lovely new Lenovo laptop and Windows 7 decided to put an end to it's long life. Subsequently I did a lot of research and reading of reviews (including those on Amazon, when you often get conflicting perspectives) and decided I would get another player from Creative as I had been so happy with my last one. Because I have a touchscreen phone I decided against one of the newer ones and opted for an old school player with buttons.

Basically I love this MP3 Player. It works the same as the old one, the features are the same, the battery life is excellent, the sound quality is wonderful, and the 32GB of space is more than enough, and so on and so on.

However, in two ways (one minor, one major) I have decided to return my player and buy another one (probably the Sandisk Sansa Clip though I am undecided as yet). The minor reason being the new interface; it's "fancy" graphics just appear to slow the player down while you navigate it which is definitely not an improvement, and disappointing considering it's 5 years more modern.

The major reason is that this player does not support gapless playback. Let me just repeat that so you can really take it onboard. Try saying it aloud to yourself, perhaps.

This player does not support gapless playback.

Furthermore since contacting Creative about it I have found out that none of their mp3 players support gapless playback. This is odd when you consider that my 5 year old Creative Zen V Plus supported gapless playback. Also odd from a company who state "Pure, immaculate audio is what you will hear every single time." Except of course for the 1 second gap between tracks.

Anyway, if you don't mind this absolutely unforgiveable decision by Creative, nor mind an interface that takes longer than it should to respond when you've pressed a button, this is a brilliant mp3 player.
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on 4 June 2012
Love my Zen, easy to work, nice size and good quality to the sound, love the way you can give each track a star rating, would have liked a way to choose tracks by star ratings
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on 9 January 2011
try charging from xbox usb / universal adapter lead to killed battery overnight charge loss and inability to recharge from pc usb

humph - unable to insert a new battery ????

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