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Creative ZEN Mosaic Media Player

The Creative ZEN line of media players is an interesting counterpoint to Apple's minimalist iPod line. Creative offers a smorgasbord of more features -- like FM radio, voice recording, speakers to share the clips with friends -- in a much wider choice of different shapes and sizes.

The Creative ZEN Mosaic packs all this and more into a small and light player (around 3 x 1 1/2 x 1/2 inches, and 0.1 pounds). It's available with 2 to 16 GB for around $59 to $149, in black, silver, and pink. (Though there is no slot for expansion memory cards.)

The "mosaic" name comes from the fun pattern below the display, where the buttons are part of the jumble of grayish squares. The one white square is the center select button, but the four directional buttons do not have the same color, and the only identification is a subtle icon embedded in the surface.

As a result, while the menu interface is clean and straightforward, controlling the Mosaic can be frustrating for first-time and casual users -- the play/pause button is particularly non-obvious.

To load your media, the Mosaic is relatively easy to sync with under Windows -- you can drag and drop files directly (if they are in supported formats like MP3 and JPG), or sync with Windows Media Player. Creative also offers the Creative Centrale software to organize your media collection and ZENcast Organizer to manage video and audio podcast channels. (The Mosaic has limited video format support, so video clips do need to be converted.)

The Mosaic also uses a stand mini-USB interface to connect to a PC and to recharge, which should mean that you don't need to carry special cables. But, frustratingly, it does not charge from a USB hub or from USB power adapters -- which means that if you want to use it on a trip, and are not bringing along a computer, you will need to buy and carry the special Creative ZEN charger.

See full article: Creative ZEN Media Players: Mosaic and X-Fi

See my Portable Media Players Gallery for more on MP3 and media players.

    Find the Creative ZEN Mosaic on Amazon.com

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