Creative’s Zen Micro Delivers Big Sound in a Small Package

White headphones bother me. I’m not sure if it’s the color, the price, or the fact that it seems like everyone’s got a set. But whatever it is, I’m working on starting an anti-iPod revolution. You know, the one that never quite got going before Apple showed up with it’s white earbuds. Despite my wants, however, it was hard finding an MP3 player package that rivals the iPod in terms of storage, ease, and sound quality. That was, until I finally decided to get rid of my CD player and grab the Creative Zen Micro. The Micro has a ton of extra features that the iPod doesn’t, easy software, and sounds great. While Apple may currently have the market cornered on quality music players, a few more players like the Micro may very well strip that title from them.

The Good. Despite the fact that it’s not made by Apple, the Creative Zen Micro has got a lot going for it. A whole lot. While it may lack the space of a 30 or 60 gigabyte hard drive, what it’s missing in space it makes up for in features. Probably one of the most convenient features found in the Micro comes not from the hardware, but from the software. The Micro’s insides are easy to work with, and as a bonus, the player can sync with Microsoft Outlook. In an iTunes dominated world, it’s good to see that there is decent that is compatible with Windows Media Player and similar types of players.

A slew of physical features also keep the Micro a few steps ahead of its competition. The player features a voice recorder and an FM tuner that can also be used to record your favorite stations. The sound quality is simply amazing for a player of this price range and style; it really must be heard to be believed, and only the most hardcore audiophiles will have problems with it. And with a music community that’s finally starting to embrace subscription services, the Micro is 100% compatible with such services.

On top of everything else, the Micro also comes in 10 colors, allowing you to match the player to your own personal style. Whereas iPods colors are generally limited, the Micro has plenty of color to go around.

The Not-So-Good. The main qualms I have with the Micro are the touch pad and the volume control. The touch pad itself, while certainly not the worst on the market, is not the simplest tool to navigate the Creative software. At the very least, it’s doesn’t have the ease of use of the iPod click wheel. Despite the comparison, it does rate better in terms of control than many of its similar non-Apple cousins, but with the iPod people setting the standard so high, one hopes that the rest of the industry puts an effort into following. It is also a bit less convenient that the Micro doesn’t have a dedicated volume control.

In regards to the software, the only big complaint is the recording format for the voice and FM recording functions. While these are wonderful features (and should be included in the iPod, Mr. Jobs), the fact that they record only in WAV format can be something of a hassle, especially when it comes to memory. Having an automatic MP3 conversion would be a great next step, and hopefully Creative will have that little improvement in the works soon.

The Bottom Line. The Creative Zen Micro delivers a great sound, unique features, and awesome style in a Windows-based player. The few drawbacks shouldn’t stop anyone from buying this great little package from Creative.

While I may not be embracing the iPod revolution, I am plenty happy with the Creative Zen Micro. The addition of the recorder functions and the killer sound quality have made me a believer that despite the market saturation of those little white headphones, I can find a great player that doesn’t have the worms of the Apple.

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