Creative Jukebox Zen: Review

May 27th, 2003

Well I promised you a review so I thought I’d better get down and write one. So, here it is. I may add to it as my enjoyment of the product increases/decreases. I have included four photos for your viewing pleasure.


I was incredibly impressed by the speed in which delivered me my MP3 player – the contender to the Apple IPOD crown of king of the hard-disk mp3 players. It took a mere 24 hours to feel the sturdy metallic object in my palm. So top marks on the delivery front.

Zen Pic


On opening the rather large Creative Labs box you will find: a software CD, quick start guide, leather carry case, usb cable connector, mains battery charger and of course, The Zen MP3 player itself. All nicely packaged and protected from damage by the usual polystyrene gubbins.

Zen Pic


Other reviews seem surprised at the size of the thing as it is slightly (and I mean slightly) larger than the IPOD. However, it is still portable and is the same size as my latest cassette playing Sony Walkman. A size I am used to and quite an easy size to slip into your pocket, if you don’t want to use the leather carry case to strap it to your belt.

Zen Pic


Before you can use the Zen you have to give it an initial 4 hour charge. This gives you plenty of time to install the software and read the excellent PDF manual and interact with the Flash guide. I was well aware that I’d be needing to download some extra software before I bought the thing in order to use it as easily as possible. Creative are well known for shoddy MP3 software. Not that it’s a bad package but strictly for the most basic of users. The Notmad software that is available from Red Chair software makes tag editing exceedingly easy. You see, the Zen expect you to have maintained a good set of ID3 tags. The reality of the situation is that most of us don’t. Not to worry, that was easily sorted and in a mere 24 hours my CD collection was fairly ship-shape. The software on the machine is very good – offering excellent file management and some nifty little EAX sound effects so you can add masses of reverb to tracks to simulate being in a concert hall (if that floats your boat). You can save your own playlists too or just get the machine to play random stuff at you to its hearts content. There are plenty of menus to enable you to move easily through your albums/artists or search for tracks. The nice chaps at creative have also pre-installed a load of classical music onto the machine for your enjoyment. This is easily removed. One great thing about Creative is that they constantly upgrade their firmware – giving you access to new cool features. You simply visit their site and download the upgrade. The bundled software does the rest.


The machine handles very well. The buttons are all on the side rather than on the front and they all require a fairly hard push in order to get them to work. This is particularly useful when you’ve got it in your pocket. You don’t want to go accidentally pressing buttons all over the place and ruining your enjoyment of some 23 minute prog-rock opus now do you? It’s got a handy scroll wheel on the side just like recent sony/ericsson mobile phones. This ‘jog dial’ feature is very useful when moving through various menus of options or through your albums. The blue back-lit LCD display is top notch and much better than the green display of yore. The screen is big enough to read without squinting or holding the thing to your nose and the hard drive is as quiet as a mouse. You can have the volume up really loud with no distortion thanks to some clever science that I wont go into here. You get the 14 hours playback no trouble as long as you’re not trying to compete with a jet airplane in terms of sound. Stay away from the EAX effects to keep that battery healthy too! Talking of the battery, it’s a concealed lithium cell that you can’t remove. It’s fully rechargeable and really does give you 14 hours of non-stop playback. Bonza!

In a nutshell…

A splendid little device that will keep me entertained for many hours. The 20 gig hard drive will take some time to fill and the carry case will ensure that it stays nice and scratch free. Downside? Hmm, hard to think of one. Maybe it could have been just a little smaller. But that really is a minor minor thing. Well worth the �253 from

Zen Pic

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28 Responses to “Creative Jukebox Zen: Review”

  1. MarioM

    Nice review. Quick question – do you know if it can be used as a simple USB harddrive – i.e. just plug it into a PC without drivers and the PC sees it as a HD?



  2. Violet sky

    No, it can’t. You can use it to transfer data to and from computers, but you’ll need to install either creative’s software or notmad, as far as I know.

  3. Guy

    Notmad helps a lot. Make sure you get hold of a copy for easy file management. PCs will not automatically mount the device as a drive.

  4. John

    Can I download the 700 CD’s (WMA 128)from my laptop straight on to the Zen 60?

  5. Paul

    Guy, yes, you should be able to do that no problem. I have 600 or so albums on a 60GB Zen.

  6. Andy

    Can the Creative Zen be used with an Apple Mac? Ideally I’d like to be able to transfer cds from both apples and pcs, which, I’ve been told, the ipod can do? Your advice would be much appreciated. Cheers.

  7. Guy

    Hi Andy,

    Apparently the Zen can’t be used with an Apple Mac. I did a search on the Creative site and got this:

    “Sorry, there are no Creative firmware/drivers for NOMAD Jukebox Zen (USB 2.0) under Macintosh OS X.”

    So there’s your answer. Your best bet is probably an ipod since this works on both platforms. Plus the new ipod is comparable in price with the Zen.

  8. Brian

    I couldn’t get mine to work with a mac so i doubt it is mac compatible, i think creative should release mac drivers as the ipod being compatible with windows as well as mac means it might be more of a buyers choice

  9. Guy

    Yeah it makes so much sense. I guess most Mac users would opt for the ipod though as they tend to buy into the whole deal. The annoying thing is that the zen can actually be used as a portable harddrive. It would be nice to be able to use it as a means to pick up files from a pc and put them on a mac.

  10. Nathan Parrett

    Can it charge via usb2 while using it through the software, ie being able to access the zen through my laptop while at the same time charging the zen?

  11. Guy

    Nathan, I’ve yet to manage to get the Zen to charge via the USB connection. Apparently it can charge while connected via the usb to any pc. I emailed the Nomad team who informed me that as long as the device wasn’t in use but plugged in via the usb, it would be charging. This hasn’t proved to be the case so far! The usual indicator that the thing is charging doesn’t appear at all. So, if you get an answer on how exactly it works, please let me know!

  12. volum

    Will the player play protected wma files, that can’t be converted to mp3

  13. mzex

    how long it will be working, since this is a hdd based player?
    I mean how resistible is it to accidental hits and falls?
    you know HDDs are sensitive devices.

  14. Guy

    Volum, the player should play protected wma files but you may need notmad to get them onto the device.

    Mzex, the hd should last a fair few years as long as you dont drop it onto the floor whilst it’s running. You’ll have the same problem as with the ipod.

  15. mzex

    so you Guy say that I can run whit it in my back pocket without making any damage to HD?

  16. Guy

    It’s not advised to run with it according to the instructions and I guess that the new muvo (MuVo2)would be better if you want to take it jogging. A brisk walk or bike ride wont damage the zen.

  17. Steve Page

    Given the recent publicity around battery cost on ipods do you know if the Zen can have a low cost replacement?

  18. Guy

    Re: 17: Yes a battery is available and will set you back around £30.

  19. roger

    All of a sudden I’m having trouble starting up the Media Source Organizer. It gives an error message saying there’s a problem with ctplayq.dll. Any ideas what’s wrong?

  20. Jyera

    Does anyone been successful in playing very big WMA file in MuVo2? File sizes 50MB to 100MB with play time of 30-60min @ 32kbps.

  21. cappers

    I’m interested in getting one, mainly for when I go jogging and playing thru my HI Fi. I have read in posts above not to go jogging. But can you/should you? Will it have drastic problems? Also can you comment on the skip protection? Does it work well on this (unlike the ipod so I have read.)

  22. Guy

    Cappers, it’s a hard-disk player and therefore uses a laser to read the spinning disk. So, jogging could mean the laser head ripping holes in the disc, rendering it useless. I wouldn’t go running with it, no.

  23. Sean

    Hard Disks use electromagnetism, much like floppy disks. It is CD’s or DVD’s that uses lasers, as they are optical storage media.

  24. Guy

    Sean, of course, you are right. Wasn’t thinking properly! Yes, it’s still the head that will potentially scratch the disk when jogging. I wouldn’t do it!

  25. justin

    has anyone gotten a zen extra (40gb model) to work with a mac?
    the ‘about this computer’ recognizes it perfectly, but thats about it. no mount, no itunes, no nothing!
    shame it isnt supported.

  26. tunç

    can zen extra be connected to the car?is there any product for zen extra LİKE CAR ADAPTER OR CASETTE ADAPTER? THANX A LOT….

  27. tunç

    and one more thing i ve read that while using zen extra with windows xp some problems occur?is that true?Could you please advise me a way to connect my zen extra to my audio in my car..thanx again

  28. Steve

    I’ve just picked up an FM transmitter from PDAAddons so you just tune in your car stereo. It works a treat.