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Photos: Creative Zen MX hands-on

Creative's Zen MX MP3 player is almost identical to the original Zen, and costs just a fraction less. What exactly is going on here, and why does this product even exist?

Nate Lanxon

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Twin sisters Lisa and Jessica Origliasso of The Veronicas at least have the decency to dye their hair different colours to make it easy for us to know which one we're having a crisis over. Creative's new Zen MX MP3 player, on the other hand, offers fewer visual clues as to the differences between it and its older brother, the more expensive Zen. And we're having a totally different type of crisis over it.

We just don't know why this product exists. It's a slightly cheaper version of the Zen, but offers the same design and build quality, the same excellent sound quality, an identical screen size and resolution, and actually produces better battery life -- 5 hours longer when listening to music, in fact.

And it's not even that much cheaper: The 8GB Zen MX sells for just £10 less than the 8GB Zen, at £80.

What, pray tell, are the differences then? Well, for one, the Zen MX won't play AAC music files. That's the format the iTunes Store now sells, so, if you want to play iTunes Plus downloads, you'll need the Zen or higher-end Zen X-Fi.

Video support is now dismal as well. The Zen MX wouldn't even play WMV, let alone Xvid or MPEG-4, video files in our tests. You'll need to convert all files to Creative's own video format using bundled software. What a pain.

Pretty much all other features remain the same as on the original Zen, including the FM radio, voice recorder, photo gallery, contacts, organiser and calendar functions. Plus, as we mentioned, it's got better battery life. Creative has also performed the old switcheroo on the on/off switch, which is now built into the play/pause button on the front instead of living as a chunky switch of its own on the side of the player.

What Creative has really done here is cripple a great MP3 player in its two key areas -- video and audio support -- and released it at a price just a disappointing fraction below what the better version costs. Why? We don't know. We recommend that, for the sake of a tenner, you buy the better version. Both are on sale now.

Hands-on pics are over the page.

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The Zen MX is on the right. The original Zen on the left. Or is it the other way around? Y'know, it's hard to tell.
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The main physical difference between the Zen and Zen MX is the physical on/off switch. On the Zen (the uppermost player in this photo), it sits on the right-hand side of the chassis, whereas no such switch is used on the Zen MX.

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