Gadling Gear: Creative ZEN Media Player

Yikes! I promised to write, by last week, about my favorite MP3 player to travel with, and then I didn’t.

In the span of 8 days I visited the island of Miyajima off the coast of Hiroshima, went back to Tokyo, stayed on an island called Yakushima off the southern coast of Japan for four days, and then moved to Taipei, Taiwan. Not much time to write.

However, I’m now settled in the Da-an district of Taipei with a couch and an internet connection, so it’s back to business.

And today’s business is a gem of an MP3 player, the Creative ZEN.

There are two things that make this the best current MP3 player for a serious traveler, as well as a few nice touches that seal the deal. Let’s focus on the big ones first.

1. Massive Storage

It’s competitor, the Apple iPod Nano comes in either 4 or 8gb models. The ZEN doesn’t stop there – it goes up to 16gb and 32gb. That makes it the highest capacity mp3 player with no moving parts.

As if that wasn’t enough storage, it has an SD slot to add up to 16gb more space. That means that you can carry up to 48gb of music, tv shows, and movies with you at all times.

No other tiny player (the ZEN is only 2.1 ounces) comes close here. On my trip to Yakushima, which involved a 9 hour train ride and 4 hour ferry ride both ways, I watched several BBC documentaries, listened to a few hours of Jay-Z, and did a few French tapes. Plenty of room for everything, and I only have the 16gb model.

2. Fantastic Battery Life

Even though it has a bigger screen than the Nano, the ZEN gets slightly better battery life. The battery life is so good that I just never think about charging it. It lasts for about 25 hours playing audio or five playing video.

In practical terms that means that you charge it before your trip and it’s going to last until you get there, even when your flight is delayed twice and you have to wait for your bag for an hour before taking a taxi into town.

When it is time to charge it, you just use the tiny little USB cord and plug it into your computer. The cord is only 3 inches long so you don’t have to coil it and make a mess of you bag. This, of course, is the same cable that you use to load new media onto the player.

The little bugger charges extremely quickly too – maybe 1-2 hours for a full charge.

Ok, if that isn’t enough to convince you that the Creative ZEN is the best media player for die hard travelers, here are a few more little things that I love about it.

1. The built in alarm is perfect. You set it and it will go off even if the player is turned off. If I want to nap on a train but make sure that I wake up for my stop I just put my Etymotics in, set the alarm, and go to sleep.

2. The ZEN automatically remembers where you left off last time. If you decide to put you movie on pause and do a language lesson, it will automatically bring you back to your position in the movie when you get back to it.

3. Copying to it is easy. No need for iTunes or anything stupid like that. Hook it up to any computer with the tiny little cable and you can instantly transfer music.

That’s about it. My only complaint is that the screen is glossy. This seems to be the popular thing to do these days, but I much prefer a matte finish. Oh, and I wish the 32gb one was out when I bought mine. I’m stuck with a “measly” 16gb.

You can get yours on Amazon like I did.