Creative has added a new flash player to their already crowded Zen family of flash players– further cannibalizing their own product line. The Zen WAV is their first MP3 player to feature built-in speakers, anteing up to players like the Samsung K5 and the Sansa Connect. The WAV is a niche product that will really only appeal to someone wanting built in speakers and perhaps MSC support, since it is nearly the same player as the Zen V Plus, minus the speakers at the same price.
Still, the slight variations between the Zen V and WAV may be enough for consideration. Read on for a closer look at the Creative Zen WAV.
- Quick Look
- Capacities: 2GB, 4GB
- Battery Life: 30 hours, 20 hours with speaker on
- Screen: 1.5″ 65k TFT 128×128 pixel
- Size: 85 x 42 x 12.5 mm
- Weight: 49g
- Audio Support: MP3, WMA, WAV
- Photo Support: JPG
- Video Support: AVI (OpenDML)
- Transfer Protocol: MSC
The Zen WAV comes with everything you need to get started: software, user guide, standard USB cable, earbuds, protective pouch, line-in cable, and an acoustic stand. There should be a few aftermarket accessories available, such as a silicon skin or other types of protective cases. The Zen WAV is charged by your computer’s USB port, but any standard USB wall charger will work for on – the – go situations. These chargers can be found for under ten bucks.
The player’s exterior is entirely made out of plastic, and given a metallic-like painted finish. The screen is a hard scratch resistant plastic, much like you would find on many players. Overall, the design is nothing impressive, and is lacking the solid design typical of Creative Zen players. The player feels light, and somewhat flimsy. Although I do not have confirmation, I am almost certain this player is an ODM, manufactured and designed by another company. This was not the first time Creative has worked with other companies, for example, the MuVo Vidz was also outsourced. This is not an unusual practice.
Even though I would describe the overall build as cheap, I have not found it to be any less durable than other players. It is more how the player feels in your hand.
The controls are very basic and similar to the Zen V. All of the navigation controls are found on the front: a 5 way center joystick, a pause/play/power button, and a back button which doubles as an option button with a long press. On the right side, you will find the a lock switch, but this also slides the other direction to turn the external speakers on and off.
The only small complaint I have is that it does not have dedicated volume buttons, different from the Zen V. Not a huge deal, but it would have been nice to have.
If you have used any Creative player in the Zen family, you will be familiar with the Zen WAV, since it is nearly identical. The minute differences are found in the extra options added for the external speakers and alarm clocks. Even though the GUI is unchanged, it is still the same easy to use and intuitive interface.
The Zen WAV is a standard Mass Storage Class (MSC) device, meaning that it will work with any modern OS—Mac, Linux, and Windows. When you plug the Zen WAV in, it will show as a removable disk. Music can simply be dragged and dropped into the music folder.
However, in order to take advantage of all of the WAV’s features such as video and DRM9 content, you will need to install the software included, and this only runs on Windows XP SP2 and above (including Vista). This software also gives you the ability to manage playlists, rip CDs, and synch files, to name the main features. There is also a “smart fill” feature that will put random tracks on the player from a designated music library.
The FM radio is a solid aspect of the WAV. The reception is good, but will depend on the headphones you use. The autoscan feature will fill up your presets with all the clear stations in the area. The autoscan feature works better than most players. It will only fill the player with the clearest stations; no fuzzy stations will be introduced into your presets. The radio also has a bonus of having a signal strength indicator, much like your mobile phone.
Voice is recorded in 32kbps mono WAV files. This feature is nice for a few voice notes and perhaps some class lectures. Your success in using this for class lectures will depend on the room and proximity to the lecturer. The WAV’s microphone is decent and may work in some setting for that purpose.
On the top of the player, there is a line-in jack connection (2.5mm), for external audio sources to be recorded. This will work for any audio source at typical line voltages, such as on a CD player or other MP3 players. A 3.5mm to 2.5mm cable is included to record from these devices. The line-in has a function that will automatically break up the recording into tracks when silence is detected. This comes in handy for copying CDs.
The audio format used is WMA and will record at selectable bitrates of 64, 80, 96, and 128kbps.
Time & Alarms
The alarm feature may set it apart from the Zen V just a little more, considering you can use its speakers to wake you. The function allows you to have up to 5 different alarms and a snooze function as well.
The world clock allows you to input three different time zones from around the world.
The WAV has a very basic text file reader. The screen holds six lines of text but with very few words (see the screenshots). It may not be the best idea for reading “eBooks”, but it may be handy for storing some contacts or grocery lists. However, if you do have mass text to read, there is a bookmark feature where you can index a page.
One feature I noticed that I thought was great and worth mentioning, is the auto volume decreasing feature. When you remove any headphone or cable, the volume will be decreased once you put it back in the jack. This is great, I don’t know how many times I scared myself or hurt my ears plugging back in– a very nice touch by Creative.
The photo interface on the WAV is great. It’s easy to use and browse your collection of photos. Viewing photos on the WAV is a nice extra to have, but it is really as good as it can get on a tiny 65k color screen.
Like the Zen V, consider the video feature a bonus. While video looks as good as it can on the small screen, the player does not have the processing power to play highly compressed video, such as DivX, XviD, and h.263. The compression method used is AVI (OpenDML). This codec requires less processing power to display the video, but has very large file sizes. Every minute of video will take up 20MB; therefore a TV should use around 400MB and a movie may not even fit on the 2GB WAV.
The sound quality is par. It lacks the dynamics and midrange clarity of higher end players. Still, you will not be able to tell the difference unless you are using an expensive set of headphones. However, the player features preset and custom EQ for additional sound tweaking.
Compared to other players with built-in speakers, like the Samsung K5 and the Sansa Connect, the WAV speaker sound quality comes in just below the Connect with the K5 leading the pack. The K5 can obviously beat both of these, since the speak
ers are much more robust than the WAV and the Connect. The WAV has more of a “tinny” sound to it compared to the Connect. I found the WAV’s speakers to be somewhat fatiguing to my ears after listening to music for extended periods of time—like 20 minutes.
Despite the fatiguing the music sounds ok, but I think that it is much better suited to playback audio books or podcasts. Regardless, they are still loud and clear and will fill a small room with sound. The acoustic stand included with the WAV does help increase the sound output and is also a nice place to set your WAV. It is a very useful bundled accessory.
Playlists & Bookmarks
Like most of Creative’s Zen players, the playlists and bookmarks on the WAV are a solid feature. The Zen WAV will allow you to create and name multiple playlists. Additionally, there are 10 spaces available for bookmarks if you are into audiobooks or long mixes.
The WAV is nothing outstanding, and lacks the build quality expected of Creative products. However, it does have an advantage over many players. It has the same great interface found on Creative’s Zen lineup. The Zen WAV closely resembles the Zen V Plus, but adds speakers, better battery life and an MSC connection, so it can be used on all modern OSes. If these features are important to you then you should check out the Zen WAV. Otherwise, the Zen V Plus is a better option.
- Multiple On-the-Go Playlists & Bookmarks
- Mass Storage Class (MSC) – No drivers needed
- Same great Zen user interface
- Better than average battery life
- Sub-par build quality
- No dedicated volume buttons
The Zen WAV is available at Wal-Mart—online only, but you may see it in stores in the future.