STYLE MEETS SOUND
I’ve owned several different types of MP3 player in my time. There’s one on my phone, one on my Handheld, one on my PSP, one on my camera, and I’ve got a little stick one that doubles as a card-reader. The problem with all of these players is the capacity, allowing me to only fit a couple of CDs from my music library. Enter the Zen Micro. It has a built in hard drive, and a pretty decent navigation system, so not only can I fit most of my collection on to it, I can also organise it, and find the tracks I want to listen to.
I had steered clear of hard-drive based players in the past due to the fact that they are susceptible to damage when bumped or shaken. I was very careful with it when I first got it for this reason. I didn’t want to spend all that time and money on a unit which I was going to wreck the first time I jumped off a building. I guess the designers had the same concerns as me, as I am getting progressively rougher with the Micro, and have yet to make it skip, or damage it in other ways. Besides which, it looks cool, and has a funky blue glow around it.
Getting around the system is pretty simple. The entire control area of the unit is touch sensitive. To navigate between artists/albums or songs, you slide your finger up and down the center. This is context sensitive, so can also adjust the volume or the graphic equaliser bars, among other things. There’s a pop-up context menu available via a button, and the obligatory play/pause and skip buttons. All of the buttons and controls can be locked by sliding the power switch to the hold position, avoiding the accidental turning on and draining of the Micro while it’s in your pocket.
Sound quality is excellent. It comes with a whole slew of pre-built graphic equaliser settings, or you can go the custom route, and set it the way you like it, which works very well. It certainly sounds a long shot better than any of my other players. Another good feature of the Micro is that if you damage the battery, or need a spare, they’re readily available, and you can change them yourself. It comes packaged with head-phones, a belt clip, a stand, a USB 2.0 cable, a pouch and strap, and as you would hope, a charger.
I don’t know if my ears are a funny shape, but normally, headphones which are supposed to just sit there like plugs will fall out at any available opportunity. This is a pet peeve of mine - they drive me insane. The ones that come with the Micro are the first I’ve ever had which will sit there comfortably, even if I twist my head around, so for me, the entire experience has indeed by very Zen. Bravo Creative - for catering to mutant ears.
On the CD that comes with the unit is the setup software, and a full manual. The software is nicely integrated with the PC. Your Micro shows up as a new entry at the bottom of Windows Explorer, and to manage the tracks, you can drag and drop them from existing folders, drag the entire folder, or use the extra toolbar buttons it adds to rip a CD directly on to the unit - which allows you to set the bitrate, rip it to your hard-drive as well, and queries the Gracenote CDDB to automagically grab the track names. It also comes with management software which will help you organise your music. I had a few problems with ID tags on existing MP3s, but nothing which I couldn’t fix myself. Also, look out if you’ve got tracks with the same names, as they’ll overwrite each other, even if the filenames and track numbers are different.
The Zen Micro comes in multiple colours, retails for $499.95 (incl GST), and should be available from all good resellers.