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Zen Nano 2006/02/11

Posted by Dave in Reviews, shopping.

I saw Michael Graham’s Zen Nano at work. He used a small lead to connect it to the USB on his PC and uploaded some documents he had been working on at home. I must say it looked pretty simple: drag ‘n’ drop.

[Picture of our wee Nano]It works just like any pen/ stick/ key/ USB drive, only it needs a USB/Firewire lead. It is not far off the size of a flash drive at 34mm wide by 65 mm high and just 13mm thick. It weights just 34 grammes with the battery fitted — it doesn’t need the battery to work as a USB flash drive, but if you want to use it as an MP3 player or FM tuner then you’ll need the battery and headphones.

Michael explained that he could record the Radio straight to MP3 — which was pretty interesting actually; I couldn’t think of a device that did that. It also does voice recording using an inbuilt condenser mic — and even line-in recording, so it could easily record telephone calls digitally or be used as a Dictaphone type device.

Obviously, you can connect loudspeakers instead of headphones or earphones to listen to music — but it also copes with storing any kind of file, just like any USB storage device — movies, documents, pictures. Pretty neat I thought.

The clincher for me was that there is actually NO NEED FOR A COMPUTER — this wee device can record straight from a CD player, a cassette tape player or even an old turntable (and of course the FM radio). Wow. This blows the iPod out of sight. No need for iTunes? Superb!

I knew there was something else weird about iPods. Mike said that he wouldn’t consider them first because of cost, but also because the battery cannot be changed — ever. It merely gets recharged until, after a couple of years it dies. The folk at Creative have managed to get an equally capacious device (1GB) to run for 18 hours on a standard shop AAA battery — available from anywhere, especially abroad when you have forgotten your charger or are camping without a power source to hand.

Anyway, he told me he paid about 90 quid, and I was still impressed — but even moreso when I saw that the price had dropped in the sales.

I picked up a lovely white one, and I am absolutely amazed at the sheer amount it can store! It’s also got a 4 Band EQ (Classical, Jazz, Pop, or Rock settings) and the display can be changed in case you become left-handed! It plays WMAs and MP3s, and — of course as there is no moving parts (unlike the iPod’s mini hard drive), as a flash drive it is completely skip free!

Perfect for cycling or jogging for Ruthie — or the car. It is so light, my headphones weigh more! I spent 65 quid and I believe I cannot find a better tool for that money. If only it was built into my phone! I’m telling ya, it is small enough.

After a couple of weeks I found that I tended to connect it to the USB on the laptop and just move over music I want to listen to. This saves me messing about too much while driving. So the laptop is the main store for MP3s. I also use it for the radio a lot, but not as much as I thought. I also think the battery life is superb; I’ve just changed it. There’s nothing I would change, or want it to do.

Having said that, I prefer people to see for quite a distance away that I cannot hear them, so I tend to wear obvious headphones, rather than minimalist earphones — even though the Nano’s are iPod white. I also find headphones more hygienic and easier to use (worn around the neck, as opposed to endlessly untangling wires) .

I now rarely use my USB drives, as I use the Nano for moving AutoCAD drawing files, Documents and spreadsheets and loads of picture of Olivia and Ruth (even movie clips). You lose nothing in replacing the battery.

I also found that it makes me listen to the radio more than before; I can quickly record something I like or at least catch the artist’s name etc. so I can investigate later. The navigation takes a wee bit of getting used-to, but it is back-lit and actually pretty logical. I would recommend this to anyone and everyone.

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