The interface and plethora of visual display options continue to set the Zen line apart. As per usual, Creative includes various themes for interface customization, and you can set any image on the player as wallpaper. All menus are straightforward. Music is sorted by playlist, album, artist, and so on, while photos are conveniently sorted into folders. Open these folders and you're greeted with an attractive three-by-four thumbnail grid of your pictures. The photo viewing experience is great: the thumbnails magnify as you scroll through them and once you select a photo, you are given various options including zoom and rotate. Naturally, you can view photos and slide shows while listening to music. There's even a nifty, semi-split-screen deal on the main menu that cycles through album art, photos, or video image clips, depending on which media type you are browsing.
Getting content onto the Zen Mozaic is a mostly simple task (except when it comes to video). If you're already running Windows Media Player or Rhapsody, you don't even need to install any software to start syncing content to the player--in fact, you can even use drag-and-drop if you prefer. However, the included Creative Centrale software is a worthwhile install and necessary for converting video for the player. ZenCast--a program that offers a one-stop spot for subscribing to, organizing, and transferring podcasts--is not included on the disc but can be downloaded. It would have been nice if Creative had folded this into Centrale to offer a more seamless experience. We'd also love to have seen Mac support; unfortunately, the Mozaic uses MTP, so you won't be able to sync it with any machines that aren't running Windows XP.
There's a lot to like about the Mozaic, but it really shines in the features department. It's worth noting, however, that there is no line-in recording for audio or video. Nor will you find an SD card slot on this player. What you do get is support for MP3, WAV, WMA (including subscription), and Audible audio; AVI video (all videos must be transcoded with the included software); and JPEG photos. There's also a built-in mic for voice recording and an FM radio with autoscan and 32 preset slots. And Creative includes basic PIM functionality: you can sync contacts, tasks, and calendar info from Outlook to the device. Plus, you get the usual shuffle and repeat playback modes, handy contextual menus, and the ability to search for artists and songs as well as rate songs on the fly and set up to 10 bookmarks. Nine preset EQs, a five-band, user-definable mode, and a bass boost function ensure that you can adjust sound to your liking. Creative even threw a speaker onto the back of the device for music sharing moments.
Frankly, we've come to expect great audio quality from Creative's MP3 players, and the Zen Mozaic did not disappoint--once we swapped in the Shure SE310 headphones. (For their part, the included headphones were passable.) Perhaps the best thing is that all genres of music sound equally great. The bass of Zeb's disco house track "Disco Patel" was tight and enveloping without overshadowing the sparkle of the high hat and minute ting of the triangle. In the Bangles' high-end heavy intro to "Hazy Shade of Winter," the detail of each instrument was crystal clear, and the relatively quiet Spanish guitar was not lost among the frantic chorus of the rest of the track. Overall, music was rich, warm, and detailed...and it just made us happy.
The Mozaic also boasts plenty of volume to drive a full-size set of 'phones--we only had it up to about a third with some noise-isolating buds. The rated battery life of 36 hours for audio is impressive, and the 5-hour rating for video is solid; interestingly, our CNET Labs test results swapped our opinion, as we got just a solid 22.3 hours of music and a hugely impressive 10.4 hours of video. The 1.8-inch color TFT display is nice and bright and photos look good, but some suffer from blurriness at the edges. Videos look fine with a bit of pixelation, but the screen size isn't conducive to watching a lot of video so we can forgive this. Viewing angle is very good from every direction except the bottom.
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