Creative Zen Touch
At a Glance
A legitimate alternative to Apple's slimmer and lighter 20GB IPod, Creative's $240 Zen Touch has a more durable exterior and dramatically better battery life than the IPod. Nevertheless, while the Zen Touch may please buyers new to the Creative line, the latest player might disappoint fans of previous Zens.
I fall into the second camp. I had anticipated that Creative would build on the strength of earlier players such as the Zen NX and the Zen Xtra. Though larger than competing products, they justified their size with greater storage capacity, a user-replaceable battery, more playlist options, and (often) dramatically lower prices.
Regrettably, the Zen Touch does away with most of those advantages. At launch in November 2004, there's only a 20GB version (Creative plans to release larger versions later); and though it's priced at much less per gigabyte than a 5GB player, the Zen Touch costs just $40 less than Apple's more polished IPod.
In my tests of a shipping unit, the rechargeable lithium ion battery lasted for a superb 26 hours, 11 minutes between charges (more than twice the battery life of the latest IPod), but you can't replace it. And though the new touchpad works well, it's not as slick as the IPod's scrollwheel.
Currently the Zen Touch doesn't appear as a drive when plugged into a PC's USB 2.0 port, so I used Creative's MediaSource application to move 3597 MP3 files encoded at 192 kbps onto the unit (Creative says that the player can hold up to 10,000 WMA songs). Creative includes its Nomad Explorer utility for transferring other types of files to the player.
The Zen Touch retains the fine sound quality of previous Zens; but in simplifying the menus, it loses some good features--particularly in playlists.
Good player with great battery life lacks previous Zens' features.