The Zen and the iPod

I've had my Zen for close to a week now, so I figured that I'd share with you some thoughts on my initial experience with the unit.

  • Any software supplied by Creative for this was worthless. To initially sync with this device I held my nose for a bit and fired up Windows Media Player. Syncing with this thing was terrible enough, that I quickly started searching for a 3rd party solution. At the moment I'm using Winamp's Media Library, which isn't perfect but also isn't too bad.
  • No more annoying iPod cable. This thing syncs fine using a standard USB cable.
  • Downloadable audiobooks sort of work. I downloaded a few books from NetLibrary. Thus far I tried to play 2 of them on the device. One worked, the other didn't. I wonder if this device is limited in terms of the number of DRMed files that it can support at any one point in time - I think that the Rio Carbon was limited to 2 or 3 titles at once. I'll have to see what I can do about this.
  • Support for play counts and last played dates is a little bit goofy. Winamp reads the play count information stored by the Zen, but Windows Media Player doesn't. One oddity with WinAmp, if you try to sort based on playcounts, it appears to do nothing. If you sort by rating, it seems to end up sorting by the play count field. Go figure!
    The Zen also doesn't appear to store last played dates, which is somewhat unfortunate.
  • Extra storage space is nice. Yup, it's chock full already ... and, nope, there's no music on this one either. Current content includes some lectures on US history, an audiobook on the Mayflower story, and Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner amongst other things.
  • FM radio works well. I'm a little annoyed that they didn't also include AM radio, but that seems to be a common problem with MP3 players. For anything other than music, usually stuff is easier to find on the AM dial.
  • iTune's lack of support for copying files back from an iPod is annoying consider the lack of each access to the files otherwise. I used PodCheat to copy my files back: it wasn't elegant but it worked. Some folks with their preloaded iPod distribution method just don't seem to get it.


I'm a little annoyed that they didn't also include AM radio, but that seems to be a common problem with MP3 players.

AM radio requires a taller antenna than what can be built into an MP3 player, unless there's been some sort of breakthrough I'm not aware of.

Well, supposedly these things use the headphone cord as an FM antenna. Not sure whether or not the same idea can be used to get an AM antenna or not though.

I don't think the cord can serve as a AM antenna. If you've read the specs on a walkman back in the day, the paperwork said that the headphone cord was the FM antenna, but it had a built in AM antenna inside the body. The AM antenna has to be reasonably large to pick up the signal properly to the best of my knowledge.

I'm not crazy...oh, wait, nevermind.