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★★★★☆

“I have been using mp3 players since the original and...”

Written on: 04/12/2004 by md25 (1 review written)

Good Points
Excellent sound quality.
Long battery life.

Bad Points
PC Software is cumbersome
Bulky
Hardware faults on early versions

General Comments
I have been using mp3 players since the original and worst Diamond Rio, and the Creative Nomad Jukebox Zen Xtra is the best I've used.



The sound quality is second to none, as its signal to noise ratio is market-leading at around 100dB. This means that it's possible to use high-quality headphones with the Xtra with very little background hiss - although as high quality headphones are almost always high power devices, quality headphones will shorten the battery life. As with every portable device I've used the supplied earphones are horrible but no worse than any other.



The battery life is also excellent, I've gotten around eight hours continuous use, which is what I'd expect with decent earphones and high-bitrate mp3s. You can get the stated 14 hours of battery with the supplied earphones and low-bitrate music files. The battery is also user-replaceable, unlike competing mp3 players. As it's a LiIon battery (as found in most hard-drive players) it only has around 500 charge cycles before it becomes essentially useless, so if you use it every day this is an important feature.



However, the Xtra does not function as a plain external USB hard drive, so you have to use the supplied software to load mp3s onto the player. As is usual for such software it is horrible, counter-intuitive and a pain to use, and I highly recommend spending $25 on Red Chair Software's NotMad Explorer, which is what the software should be like.



It is also rather large and ugly - if looks are important to you, I would suggest another product.



On early releases of this product the headphone jack was weak and eventually stopped working, necessitating returning the unit to Creative to have it fixed. The problem has been fixed in later releases of the player by strengthening the solder joints holding the headphone jack in place.



Overall, if you don't mind paying a little more for NotMad Explorer or putting up with the atrocious supplied software, and you don't mind having something that isn't as sexy as the iPod, this is an excellent player, and is highly recommended.