capsule review

Creative Nomad Jukebox Zen Xtra

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At a Glance
  • Creative Nomad Jukebox Zen Xtra 60GB MP3 Player (Creative Labs-70PD055000001)

Creative Nomad Jukebox Zen Xtra
Photograph: Rick Rizner

Creative's $400, 60GB Nomad Jukebox Zen Xtra--the flagship model in the company's line of hard-drive-based MP3 players--may look a bit like an old-school Sony Walkman, but at a cost of just under $7 per gigabyte, it's one of the best values among portable MP3 players. By way of comparison, Apple's 20GB IPod goes for the same price but offers one-third the storage.

The Zen Xtra's best asset is a powerful interface for building playlists on the device. As you browse through the Xtra's music library, you can add any artist, album, individual track, or playlist to a queue called Selected Music. Once you've added tunes to Selected Music, you can scroll to any track in that list and play it, move it around, or remove it from the queue. Selected Music also recognizes albums, artists, and playlists. Albums, for example, show up in the list as albums, not just a list of tracks. That way, if you've added 15 albums to Selected Music, you can collapse the list to show just the album titles (thereby saving scrolling time) or expand it so you can find specific tracks easily.

The Zen sounds great as well--once you ditch the chintzy earbud headphones included with the package. Creative's EAX audio processing lets you apply a number of effects to your music, including custom and preset equalizer settings.

Creative made a couple changes to the side-mounted controls found on the original Nomad Zen. On the positive side, it added a helpful back button; unfortunately, Creative also replaced the original Zen's scroll wheel with a jog dial that's a lot harder to use. Pushing the jog dial in to select something is particularly unreliable, to the point where you almost always need to consult the Xtra's bright, seven-line LCD display to figure out what you're doing.

Though the included carrying case leaves the side-mounted controls accessible, it covers the LCD display. That would be fine if the jog dial control were easier to use. To see what you're doing as you scroll through tracks on a playlist, you have to flip the case open as if you were flashing an FBI badge. A clear, plastic window on the case would have been a nice addition.

If you don't mind its above-average size, the Zen Xtra offers an outstanding playlist interface and almost three times the capacity of other MP3 players in the same price range.

Eric Dahl

This story, "Creative Nomad Jukebox Zen Xtra" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • Creative Nomad Jukebox Zen Xtra 60GB MP3 Player (Creative Labs-70PD055000001)

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