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Creative Zen Mozaic review: Creative Zen Mozaic

Creative Zen Mozaic

Jasmine France Former Editor
5 min read


Creative Zen Mozaic

The Good

The Creative Zen Mozaic offers a unique design, great sound quality, and a sweet, customizable interface. It's packed with features such as an FM radio, a voice recorder, a built-in speaker, and photo and video support. The player is also a good value, and video battery life is exceptional.

The Bad

The Zen Mozaic lacks dedicated volume controls and it only works with Windows XP and Vista. Videos must be transcoded with the included software.

The Bottom Line

The Creative Zen Mozaic offers great bang for your buck as far as MP3 players go: get super sound quality, a boatload of features, and a cool interface--all wrapped in a funky design at an ultralow price.

Creative Labs knows audio, and we're not just talking about sound cards. The company's line of Zen MP3 players has consistently earned good marks for sound quality, features, and value. Perhaps the favorite of all these devices has been the Zen V Plus, an adorable budget player with an ultracompact design. In fact, the Zen V Plus has been popular enough to let Creative rest on its laurels for more than two years. But now the time has come for a refresh, and that refresh is in the form of the Zen Mozaic, a uniquely-designed device with Creative's signature sound quality and feature offerings. The Mozaic is a bit larger than its predecessor, measuring 3.1 inches by 1.6 inches by 0.5 inch, but like the others in the line, it's priced to sell: the 2GB version is $59.99 while the 4GB goes for $79.99 (an 8GB model is in the works).

Straight-up: we think the Zen Mozaic is super cute, but that doesn't mean it's just for girls. The mosaic tile design on the front gives it an arty look that anyone tired of ho-hum electronics can appreciate. On that same tip, however, we can see how those who prefer sleek understatement might find the pattern off-putting. Creative offers the device in a choice of three colors--black, gray, or pink--which account for the overall color scheme and shading on the tiles. Nine of these tiles comprise the player's main controls, which have understated markings to indicate their functions. This way, the buttons blend nicely into the overall design--we like the effect. The keys consist of four directional arrows surrounding a center select button; the four outer corners include dedicated back, contextual menu, play/pause, and shortcut buttons. We're pleased to see that Creative included the full array of controls found on the Zen, although the fact that they are set so close together will prove challenging for those with larger fingers (the fact that the buttons are raised helps some, though). Unfortunately, there's no dedicated volume rocker, but there is a combined power and hold switch on the left spine. The bottom of the player houses the standard mini USB port and a headphone jack.

Checkers, anyone?

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.


Creative Zen Mozaic

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8