December 18, 2002

A Week With The Nomad Zen

I have had my Creative Jukebox Nomad Zen for slightly more than a week now, and thought that I would share some of my experiences with the world.

All in all I am very pleased with the Nomad Zen. It does all what it promises, and is quite good at it. The design is sleek, sizewise it is somewhat bigger than a 2.5" harddrive.

The sound is good, with some neat DSP features that saves the day when needed. Battery capacity is also some 12 hours (that is if you let it play, don't work the menus too hard, and turn off DSP), which is sufficient for most needs.

The only big weakness so far has been the software - which seemed to freak out when the number of artists exceeded 200, and I have chosen to use a combo of Notmad and MoodLogic to keep my files updated.

The size is not a problem, even if there are both MiniDisc and MP3 players that are significantly smaller than this one. The weight is sightly bothersome, as it is indeed heavier than it looks. It fits perfectly in a bulky winter jacket, but I am worried that it might be a bit too heavy for a lighter summer jacket. The Zen comes with a possibility to strap the travel pouch to your belt, a system which is slightly awkard to use as it is impossible to control the Zen while it is in your belt. Possibly the Wired Remote will solve my problems when I get a hold of one. :) (They are currently out of stock in Europe.)

The display is crisp and clear with it's blue backlight. The default backlight timeout is as short as 3 seconds, but it is simple to increase it - naturally with a trade-off on battery longevity.

The firmware is great. It is easy to move around in the menus with a scroll wheel on the right. It is easy to find tracks, as they are sorted by artist, genre, album or trackname. For a device of this size, it ain't going to get better.

The sound is pretty much as good as it gets. Using it with earpieces the volume is loud enough for most needs. The different DSP settings also increase the good feeling. I found especially the SmartVolume feature useful when playing tracks from different CDs with different volume levels. It all gets normalized, and it saves your ears. :) Again, the DSP does drain power, and I have found it to reduce playing time by some 30%-40%. If one is not far from a power outlet it is still worth it.

The software was the only big disappointment. I ditched it pretty quick, and now I use the PlayCenter when I rip my CD collection due to a pretty OK encoder and CDDB2 connectivity. Instead I bought the Notmad Explorer (currently in version 6.2.0), and it just works better. It also integrates better with Windows Explorer. As an add-on I use MoodLogic to create playlists.

MoodLogic also interfaces the Nomad Zen through the Jukebox 3, but it goes only half the way when it comes to control the device. Using it as a playlist generator though... it is great!

I guess that that was that. What more can one say? This thing is just great!

Posted by ludvig at December 18, 2002 01:52 AM | TrackBack

Can you transfer MP3 files off the Zen player to your computer?

Whats the recording feature like?

Posted by: serp at February 23, 2003 07:13 AM

Yes, I use Notmad Explorer, and all files that are not installed using CRM can be downloaded from the device too.

I have not used the recording feature yet. More news will follow!

Posted by: Lars at February 24, 2003 03:46 PM


Have you used your Zen for data transfer? Is it recognised as a mass stroage device? Or is a driver needed?

Posted by: Paul Nettleship at March 4, 2003 10:31 PM

hi i havent got a nomad jukebox zen yet as i can not find out where to get them from.
if anyone could tell me it would be a great help.

Posted by: ash at April 29, 2003 10:03 PM

Well, you can buy one directly off Creative. I bought my Wired Remote from

Posted by: Ludvig at April 30, 2003 02:19 AM

IF you live in the U.S., I'd recommend J and R Computer Electronics for buying a Nomad Zen. I was going to order one from (Which has it for $250) but then found out that it was out of stock and there free shipping takes up to 3 WEEKS! Then, I went to They have a price match service that gives you an 800 number to call and I told them that it was $250 on (JandR has it LISTED at $280 online). Then, I had to "show" the salesman over the phone how to get to the web site (to show him the price) and to Creative's website which lists as an authorized online retailer ( only matches prices from online retailers). Shipping was $4.95, but I paid $10 extra for 2-day shipping. The Zen arrived as expected and I immmediately began uploading music. Just shop around and try to find the lowest price and see of the lowest priced retailers who has it in stock and how long it takes to ship it. JandR was greatfor me because they are located in New York City and I live in New Jersey. However, I have heard that their shipping and service is equally good throughout the U.S. I don't if they ship internationally or how much it costs. My guess would be that unless you live in the Americas, you're better off ordering from a Europe-based retailer.
If you don't mind Creating playlists on the Zen itself, then there is a driver for Windows Media Player 9 which is easy to download. Otherwise, you can use any compatible software (Sadly, MusicMatch has not released a driver for the Zen yet). Although you may need to find your own software if you don't like Creative PlayCenter, the Nomad Zen is certainly a great alternative for those who have need for a 20GB Mp3 player but don't want to spend an insane amount of money on an iPod.

Posted by: Mitch at May 1, 2003 12:58 AM

thanks for the notmad tip. i hadn't heard of it, and the zen software is horrible.

i find the battery life is a little short, and it's a little bulky, but overall a pretty good player for the money. it's a shame there's no easy way to play random tracks from your entire collection.

Posted by: oliver in NYC at June 30, 2003 05:29 PM

Great article by the way!

Do you know how the Zen is working agains OS X. I am using a powerbook and it seems like Nomad Zen could be a good alternative to Apples Ipod.

Kurt in Norway

Posted by: Kurt at July 16, 2003 07:24 PM

Thank yo very much for your review!
I've just bought a Nomad Zen NX and bundle software is really crappy! Thanks to you now i have a new,more efficient software...

Posted by: HailHail at November 23, 2003 04:13 PM

I ordeed from it was the best price I could find and had it in nothing flat.

J&R has been problematic in the past, I would stay away from them. They called me once 3 days after I put an order in to 'confirm'. Ended up taking 3 weeks to get the order from them....

Love the player, hate the software!


Posted by: mark at January 19, 2004 07:48 PM

no os x software/drivers?
i've tried with virtual pc but there is a problem with usb port.
(i have a pb15)

Posted by: bragi at March 29, 2004 06:33 PM

does anybody know if it is possible to get os x drivers/software for the nomad? thanks a lot

Posted by: stephan at April 5, 2004 04:25 PM

Need OS X driver?

Go here:

Posted by: Tamakh at November 17, 2004 08:44 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?