Page 7: Watts up Docs
The online PDF documentation is pretty detailed. It goes beyond just touching on basic features, taking you step-by-step through major functional areas of the Zen player, with ordered bullet points navigating you through the menu structure, and screen mockups for visual aid. It also quickly touches on using the included software, which while it may have been nice to have all in a single manual is completely understandable to separate out – especially given that Creative is constantly updating and improving their core software programs. Touching back on the average consumer, it might have been nice to package up a version as a small paper booklet, though we can understand the cost tradeoffs, and the fact that firmware upgrades mean the documentation might continue to evolve. The Quick Start guide just didn’t cover enough. Also, the downloaded document matches the initial firmware/features of the device, and is wasn’t necessarily up to date with all interface changes. If you are going to go to digital manuals, at least make sure to update them when you make major changes – that’s not much to ask! There are a few things glossed over quickly in the docs (like the Screensaver), but overall we’d like to see Creative continue to expand the depth and detail of their documentation. Hopefully, I’ve covered some of the missing details here for Creative users…
While we’d love to talk about battery life, there’s not much we can say as we didn’t have enough time with the Zen to prove out Creative’s 14-hour claim. We did feel that the battery bar seemed to be dropping faster than would match that length, but with only three teeny bars to represent power it is hard to commit to a number. Creative (and other manufacturers!) should take a page from palmtops’ playbook, and have an ‘estimated battery life’ readout giving approximate minutes of power remaining. We’ll definitely try to do a power-run when we get the chance to evaluate a newer Xtra unit. Creative does note in the documentation the things that may reduce that total battery life, including bitrates higher than 128Kbps, use of EAX effects/environments, skipping/forward/reverse during playback (which might cause the disk to spin up prematurely), using passive speakers or high-power headphones, setting the backlight timeout greater than 10s, and playing back WMA files. NOTE: that list means you’ll want to generally use 128Kbps MP3s, no higher, and no WMA files, and keep EAX effects disabled, if you want to truly maximize your battery playtime.
Investing in an extra battery probably isn’t a bad idea if you’re traveling a lot (or want to use any of the above battery-draining options…), though with the 14-hour claim you might not need to recharge for a day or two at least if you stick to ‘the rules’ for max battery life. The charger itself is reasonably light, pretty good for travel, though maybe a bit bulky and cumbersome. We did like the fact that it is a ‘normal’ two-prong power plug, and not a big adapter/converter, since that takes up significantly less space on a power strip and makes it easier to find a jack to plug into. It also looks like the two-piece charger allows for a different power-plug-cable, as the converter is labeled as a reasonably ‘universal’ adapter, which makes it cheaper to produce internationally, and easier for users to get the extra cables to support different countries. Before leaving the battery topic, note that when we removed the front panel to look at the battery slot, then replaced the panel, the device wouldn’t power on without pushing in the Reset button – that wasn’t documented anywhere, and will certainly lead to many support calls.