Over the summer I reviewed Creative’s Zen Vision W. Now I’ll review its little brother, the Creative Zen 4GB MP3/MP4 player.

Compared to its bigger brother, this Zen is small. A little smaller than a credit card. However, unlike its bigger brother it lacks a user-replaceable battery, TV-Out, a built in speaker, and a 4.3″ screen. This little baby only has a 2.5″ screen. But while the W has a useless CF reader, the 4GB has a very useful SD reader.

But enough about the W, the more apt comparison is with Apple’s new video-capable Nano. Points against the Nano are that it only has a 2″ screen, has no SD drive, no built-in microphone, and no radio. The Nano does have TV-Out if you buy an extra cable from Apple for nearly fifty bucks. But while the Nano costs about $149, the Zen only costs around $129. For that price I consider it a great deal.

It plays the following video formats natively: MJPEG, WMV9, MPEG4-SP, DivX, and XviD. However, unlike its bigger brother, the 4GB Zen is picky about resolutions. The Zen 4GB is limited to resolutions no greater than 320×240 (320×180 for WS format). In other words, you won’t be able to download stuff from the net (cough PirateBay cough) and play it without first converting it.

Fortunately, Creative includes a batch converter to make that process simple. You load the videos you want, select the quality you want, and let it go. It’ll even load them for you when it’s done. But if that’s too confusing, it’ll convert incompatible videos for you automatically when you transfer them.

The converter can shrink full sized movies down to less than 500MBs each. So even at only 4 gigs you could easily fit 8 full length movies on it. And even more with an extra SD card.

To try out the SD reader I bought an 8GB card from Newegg. You can play video, music, and view pictures off of it. I’ve filled up the player with MP3s and will likely use the reader for movies.

Plenty of reviewers of both this Zen and the Nano have complained about watching videos on the small screen. I don’t get it. It’s not like you have to watch it from across the room. Held at a bent arm’s length it’s about the equivalent size to the 22″ WS monitor on my desk. I have a blast watching TV and movies on this little screen while I’m stuck waiting with nothing better to do. (Like the W it remembers where you left off when you turn it back on. So it’s great when you’re on the stop and go.)

It plays the following audio formats: MP3, WMA, non-protected AAC, WAV, and Audible 2,3 and 4.

The non-protected ACC format is interesting, that means it’ll natively play DRM-free songs bought from iTunes… no conversion necessary.

I never tried the FM radio. The last time I listened to radio Van Halen were not considered classic rock. About around 1982. Does anyone listen to the radio anymore? I guess it could be handy for NPR junkies, but I doubt if it’ll get any use from me. Heck, maybe the lack of radio is an advantage for the Nano!

So to sum up, I love it and would certainly buy it again. If you’re already tied to Apple’s vertical business model, you’ll probably want the Nano. But if you’re living free and small, you’ll want this tiny but full featured Zen.

Great price.
Handy video and audio converting.
Very small.
SD reader to increase storage.
Crisp and sharp video.
Also comes in 8 and 16GB sizes.
Non-proprietary USB cable.
Decent ear-buds included.
Can be used as a portable flash drive for data.
The screen is protected under hard plastic.
Full and rich sound.
Intuitive controls and UI.
25 hour battery charge for music and 5 hours for video.

No support for Windows 2000.
Limited video resolutions.
Plug-in charger not included, you have to charge via the included USB cable.
The included USB cable is very small.
It makes my Zen W seem fricken HUGE!

  1. NappyHeadedHo says:

    I thought that ugly brown picture comparing the size to a credit card was a Zune at first. Real close…

  2. domc says:

    Just bought the Creative Zen W and love the thing. I broke away from Apple products 3 years ago and never looked back. My wife uses the Nano with lesser features than creative products. I like the idea of going to any source for my music and not just Itunes. I even have a Computer PVR that converts the TV shows automatically to Zen W files.

    Creative has some great stuff.

  3. Improbus says:

    I bought something very similar to this: Meizu M6. The main difference is the SD card slot. So far I really like mine.

  4. ECA says:

    Can I ask some stupid questions??

    2. Why dont you evaluate the Archos which has more options and is a FULL DVR…?? ANd can be played on a TV, and HAS a 7″ screen.

  5. Improbus says:

    How much does it cost ECA? I suspect the Archos you are talking about is a lot more expensive than $100. I have seen some of the Archos products and I owned one of their Jukeboxes at one point. The reason I got a small player like this was to take it exercising. Try that with an Archos.

  6. Anonymous Coward says:

    I must say I loved creative products. I have several and I’ve bought one for almost every member of my family. My last purchase was a Vision:M about a year ago. While it was a good purchase at the time I can’t imagine buying one today.

    Creative seems to have completely abandoned its hard drive players in favor of its flash-based line. While this may be fine for Joe Schmoe, those of us with serious music collections (think 120GB) have nowhere left to go but the ipod classic. This is just terribly disturbing.

  7. mark says:

    6. ECA- Like Improbus, smaller is better for the main reason, portability. I have owned Archos players, and love them btw..

    8. The flash based players cant be beat for their battery life. Call me Joe Schmoe, but who needs to carry 200,000 tunes with them?

  8. NappyHeadedHo says:

    #6 – Let’s face it, cell phones were the only thing guys would talk about whose was smaller.

  9. SN says:

    6. “Can I ask some stupid questions??”

    Nothing has stopped you before.


    Size is more indicative of quantity, not quality. That being said, size can make a product more useful and less useful. it all depends on the product.

    “Why dont you evaluate…”

    I review what I buy. If you want me to evaluate something, buy one for me and I promise I’ll do a write up on it. Free of charge.

  10. SN says:

    4, “now he endorses a even smaller screen.”

    Learn how this blog works. I’m not john.

    “‘i agreed with him the first time”

    Gee, your laptop can fit in your wallet?! Your shirt pocket? That’s amazing! And your laptop only costs 130 bucks? Great price for something that small. And you can hold your laptop while you’re standing inline at the bank? Well, I guess you could since it can fit in your wallet.

  11. SN says:

    2. “I thought that ugly brown picture…”

    God, that picture was awful. I hid it under a link. Thanks.

  12. Angel H. wong says:

    Great price.”

    Silly SN, everyone knows you can give MP3 players for free and the suckers will always spend their money on an iPod.

  13. Mike Voice says:

    #3 I like the idea of going to any source for my music and not just Itunes.


    I can’t get music for my iPod anywhere but itunes?

    Thanks for the tip, I’ll delete that other 24Gb of files i have on my computer….

  14. hhopper says:

    “God, that picture was awful. I hid it under a link. Thanks.”

    Thanks SN. I hurled every time I looked at that photo.

  15. moss says:

    I know everyone has wandered away from this thread; but, I just bumped into this – reading something else, somewhere else – and hadn’t realized that iTunes now had the largest DRM-free library on offer.


    I’m one of those silly people who still buys a CD when I find an artist I like – and use iTunes to load it onto a HD and play the tunes throughout my network. I don’t buy singles.

  16. Jay says:

    Why is everyone hating on iPod? The new iPods are amazing as far as the portable media market is concerned. For instance, the 160 GB iPod/ MP3 player/ Video Player/ Photo Viewer/ Video Games/ Rolodex/ Audiobook reader/ International Clock and what might just be one of the smallest external non ac powered external hard drives out there, what else do you people want? Maybe it should guess what music you like and then hire the artist to play at your next birthday. Just remember that there are two kinds of people in the world: Those who have an iPod and those who secretly want one.

  17. Sommerstein says:

    “Just remember that there are two kinds of people in the world: Those who have an iPod and those who secretly want one.”

    Jay, just remember that there are two kinds of people in the world: Those who have their own brain and those who secretly want one.

  18. DuBree Justin says:

    Jay, just remember that there are two kinds of people in the world: Those who have their own brain and those who secretly want one.


  19. This device looks great like almost all of Creatives other products. Also I think that it is a great idea to add a SD reader instead of the CF, really makes a great difference in the storage size. It is also a nice feature that the battery is able to play for that long time.


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