Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The ZEN of MP3 Players

My lovely wife bought me a Zen Touch for my 45th birthday last week [now you know how old I am, isn't that special] as she wanted me to have a nice 40GB music player but all that is 40GB does not glitter. I was so excited when I unwrapped it until I turned on the Zen Touch and the backlit display was so dim I could barely read it which happens when your eyes go to hell after 40 but I digress as this is about Zen.

The Zen Touch was a bit hefty too, kind of like my wife's iPod classic which could probably be used to fend off attackers in a pinch. The next problem I noticed was how the A/C power adapter had to be plugged into the back of the USB cable so you had to have TWO cables connected to this stupid box just to recharge it?

OK, this Zen Touch gets stupid design of the year award being a bulky dim backlit hydra so this thing must go back to Worst Buy [Best Buy to some] and be exchanged ASAP.

So we run to Worst Buy with the intent to 'trade up' to the new Zen Touch Photo which wifey assumed would be easier to read with that bright color display. Well, it was definitely color but not so bright either, a little brighter but too dim for my tastes even after tinkering with the contrast and color display options. These people over at Creative Labs should take a page from the cell phone companies and punch up the brightness on the display but that would make too much sense as who over 40 needs to see what they're doing? Obviously the Stridex generation is their demographic and not an old fart like me but I'm digressing again.

Anyhow, their loss, not mine as I found a much smaller [and cheaper] unit called the Zen Micro that had a better backlit display easier to read, 5GB storage, recharged off the USB port of the computer and therefore only had one cable. Seems to have good battery life as my first excursion with it was a cross-country flight from San Francisco to Miami and I used it in Florida several more hours before charging it for the return trip, very nice.

Now the ugly - getting used to the Zen's hypersensitive controls as this thing is more sensitive to the touch than a virgin on prom night. You can barely pick up the Zen without accidentally changing what it's doing so you inevitably pause, skip, switch modes or something every time you grab the unit. They were wise to install a "control lock" switch on the top or either I'd be in the loony bin or this thing would be in the trash bin by now.

The other thing that makes me bats with this thing is the scroll control is also the select button so trying to scroll and pick a song frequently ends up accidentally picking the wrong song. Not too bad as I'm getting used to it but this thing would be helped with a 'SELECT' button like the iPod has.

In the 'My God What a Complainer' department I have another grievance to file which is that you really can't charge this Zen thing and use it to play music at the same time unless you disable all the auto-synch software as it otherwise goes into auto-synch download mode [aka the Zen trance] the minute you plug it into the USB port to charge it.

Guess what?

Yes, there's MORE to this story as all hell broke loose when I installed the Zen software which almost made me throw the Zen thru the wall and issue a fatwa on Yahoo! Music but you'll have to wait for the second installment to find out all the gory details.

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