Creative Zen Mozaic Review

In this review I’ll be taking a look at the Creative Zen Mozaic 16 GB MP3 Player. I recently got to test drive one of these digital music players and since some of them, especially models with less memory, are starting to hit the closeout and refurb market now, I thought this would be a good time for a review.

Review continued below…

The Creative Zen Mozaic comes in 4 different memory capacities: 2 GB, 4 GB, 8 GB, and 16 GB. You’ll mostly find the 8GB and 16GB models still on the new market with the lower memory sizes on the closeout market. The device supports MP3, WMA and WAV audio. They claim to also support the Audible audio book format but there are apparently some restrictions on how this works. It also supports voice memo recording and FM radio. The unit also features video playback on a 1.8 inch TFT screen with 128×160 pixel resolution using a modified AVI format as well as image viewing of JPEG, BMP, GIF, PNG and TIFF formatted pictures. It even sports a mini-PIM feature that allows you to setup alarms and contacts, much like a smartphone. One feature that sets the Zen Mozaic apart from many MP3 players is that it has a small built in speaker. The USB port is a standard micro port. Also in the box are an installation mini-CD, earbud headphones and a pigtail USB cable.

First, let’s look at the usability of the Mozaic MP3 Player. The button interface and screen are relatively easy to use and has some nice shortcut features. The buttons aren’t big so someone with larger hands might find them a bit of a challenge at times, something that’s typical on smaller players. One slight annoyance is the sleep function that turns off the player after 30 minutes of non-interaction. If you use the player while on a long driving commute or working out you have to remember to ‘ping’ the player to keep it on. The shuffle feature worked quite well, better than on my Sansa player. I thought the shutdown and start-up times were a bit on the long side but I’ve seen worse. The unit did lock up a couple of times and required a hard reset. Fortunately, the reset button is easy to use.

As for sound quality, the Mozaic has 8 EQ presets plus personal customization. This really helps when you’re plugging into a car audio system. There seemed to be a little more than expected high end compression on some songs as compared to other players I’ve tried. The included earbuds aren’t all that great, pretty standard generic headphones that you can get for a buck or two at a discount store. Upgrading to better phones is almost a requirement. The video quality is about what you would expect for a small screen, not so great. The built-in speaker can get surprisingly loud but the sound quality is awful.

Battery life on the Creative Zen Mozaic is quite good. They advertise up to 32 hours of audio playback time although you will see some variation in this based on the way you use it. From my own experience, I got about 24 to 26 hours of play time without a recharge. When recharging it via the USB cable, make sure that you plug it into a port that provides full power to get a good charge. I’ve found a dedicated car charger to work the best for charging this type of player.

Subscription music from places like Rhapsody and Napster work with this player although this feature was cut from the newer Mozaic EZ line. The older models, like the one I’m reviewing here, do support it though. I consider this an essential for a digital music player unless you already have an extensive CD and/or MP3 collection.

The Creative Centrale software used to control the Mozaic from a PC is rather slow and buggy. It also isn’t Mac compatible. Unfortunately, it’s required to transfer video to the device. Fortunately, for audio, you can use Windows Media Player to transfer music. Even the memory hogging Rhapsody program is better than Centrale.

In the final analysis, the Creative Zen Mozaic 16 GB MP3 Player is a decent digital music player with a few quirks and questionable design choices.


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