Saturday, October 13, 2012

Eight (8) years later review: my Creative Zen MP3-player

So, I have started studying journalism. One of the first things a journalism student need to acquire is a voice recorder. There's an app for that, surely, but a standalone / dedicated / backup device with good microphone quality and plenty of disk is nice. Lo and behold: The Creative Zen Micro from 2004 in my drawer.

I remember buying it in wonder how it clearly beat Apple's iPod at the time. More disk space, had a microphone, had a FM radio, much cheaper. The only reason to prefer the Apple MP3 player was the design if you happened to prefer that. Which I didn't. Once the Creative headphones were replaced with a pair from Sennheiser, I had a bleeding edge product of the day at about half the price of the corresponding Apple product.

The downside is Creative marketed it exclusively for Microsoft Windows. Still to this day, the official website offers only Windows downloads. The official software is very "corporate", loaded with splash screens, customized windows and "helpful" dialog menus. The unofficial gnomad2 for Linux is much more plain, intuitive and to the point. Unfortunately, it doesn't come as a package, it has to be installed from the command line (install development packages, type configure, make etc.).

I remember dropping the Zen from waist height to concrete surfaces a couple of times. The battery is still working - but I suspect it will begin to decrease in life time per charge. Then again, it has just been in a drawer for a couple of years. The sound quality of the recordings are surprisingly good. Loud, clear and shockingly small WAV files easily edited, if needed, in, for example, Audacity.

This is where I'd add a picture of my eight years old gadget. But really, it looks like it's new. Also, I should add a step-by-step instruction for compiling gnomad2. But to tell the truth I did it by part intuition, part failing memory, meaning I'm sure I got more packages than really needed on my system now and I'm not exactly sure which command got me the thing working in the end.

If only Creative had been making crappier products we would all have had to replace them more often. And then perhaps Creative would still be competing with Apple in 2012? No really, thank you, Creative, for a little gem of quality hardware. Buying the Zen founded a rule of thumb for me: For every new Apple product there's probably a competitor out there with a corresponding product that has a few more features and sells for a lot less.

And hardware shouldn't have to be replaced every other year. Especially not for something silly like irreplaceable batteries and planned obsolescence. The Zen is eight years old but it's still works fine, is still the size of a match box. Replacing it with something half the size of a match box having a color display wouldn't add any value for me, the end user.