The Creative Zen Wav: The New Podcast Champ!

Well, I FINALLY got the just-released US-version of the 4GB Creative Zen Wav. Walmart debuted it at only $99 which is quite a good price for a name-brand 4GB media player. (I wanted one so bad I was just about to order a 2GB grey market asian one for $150! :-) I’ll be comparing it mostly to my Creative Zen V Plus and compared to that it’s a little thinner, about the same width, and about a 1/2 inch longer. It kinda like a fat iPod Nano. Here’s a size comparison.

It’s not as sleek looking as the iPods with an industrial look, like someone fashioned it out of sheet metal. The sturdy but boxy case is plastic, but not as “plastickey” or toy-like as the Zen V Plus. The buttons are actual buttons, much different, and way easier to use than the Zen V’s “shell press” buttons. Sitting to the left and right of the “nub” button, instead of to the right like on the Zen V, they mostly do the same things except the play/pause button also acts as a on/off by holding it down. Also, the nub-button controls volume when held up or down while playing. The slider button on the side locks or turns the speakers on/off.�

The UI is very close to the Zen V’s, but not identical. I’ve found odd differences like the menu cursor will scroll off the last/first item back to the top/bottom, where the Zen V’s just stopped. You can select more items for the Zen V than for the Wav’s when customizing the main menu. The Wav’s time/date settings are more robust. You can set the time zone, daylight savings, world clock, and more. Oddly, there is no accelerated seek like on the Zen V which gains speed the longer you hold the button when you are fast forwarding. Thankfully, Creative’s bookmarking feature works the same as in the Zen V. There are 10 spots for bookmarks.

I also noticed that if the player shuts down, it remembers where you left off. That’s very nice for podcasts/audiotbooks. The Zen V doesn’t do this and goes to the beginning. Another difference is that if the screen is off in power-saving mode and you click a button, that click only turns on the screen. On the Zen V, the operation of that button is also performed. I actually prefer the Zen V way, but it’s not a big deal.�

Since it is not an MTP player, subscription via MS’s PlaysForSure DRM is not supported as it is on the Zen V. So no Napster, Rhapsody, or Yahoo music unless you resort to something like FairUse4WM. That’s too bad, although it means it acts like a removable hard drive and you can add songs (or any file for that matter) like it was a USB drive. This is quite handy for adding music while away from home or using it as a USB storage device. The Zen V, by comparison, requires special software to add media. The V can also act as a USB drive, but you must dedicate a portion of memory for that and you cannot play media stored on that partition.

The Wav supports MP3, WMA and, of course, WAV music files, JPEG picture files and AVI files using a proprietary (I think) CODEC. The video conversion is handled by the software that comes with it. Supposedly, it also supports the Audible format.

On the plus side, the fact that it isn’t an MTP device means it charges via a standard USB port or USB AC charger. Something the Zen V has issues with.�

Surprisingly, the Wav’s display is MUCH brighter than the Zen V’s. According to the specs, the Wav has a TFT display, while the V sports an OLED display. The difference is significant. In a related difference (I think), the Wav has a brightness control, where the V has a contrast control. Brightness makes much more of a difference.

The Zen Wav does have an interesting feature that the Zen V doesn’t and that’s “eBook” support. As far as I can tell, only text files are supported. Basically, I’d call this a text file reader, but it’s a nice feature nonetheless.

The large white cradle/stand that comes with it has no electronics. It basically focuses the Wav’s speaker output forward, improving the sound of the speakers slightly. Speaking of the speakers, they are, as you would expect, very tinny. Good for low level listening of music, but they aren’t gonna replace your boom box or headphones. However, for podcasts or audiobooks, the speakers are wonderful! Plenty of volume.

The battery is rated at an amazing 30 hrs w/o speakers and 20 hrs w/speakers. Haven’t tested this, however. Note that the Zen V is rated at 15 hours and it has no speaker.

There are a couple things I’d like to see: Optional MTP support. 8GB� or even 16GB versions. Accelerated seek. More menu config options. When you select a bookmark, if the file is already present in the list of songs playing, it should just go to that file and not clear the list first.

For podcast/audiobook listening, this
player has no peer. The only other player I can think of with built-in
speakers is the Samsung K5, but that device by comparison is huge.
Also, the K5 lacks bookmarking which is essential when listening to
podcasts and audio books. Perhaps more importantly, it costs twice as
much! For music
listening, this player is perfect for letting others hear your music, so you don’t have to share your ear buds (yuck). The of absence of subscription music support keeps me for absolutely
loving the Zen Wav, but that may not be important to everyone. The positive side of not supporting subscription music is that adding media is easy and doesn’t require special software.


  • Built-in speakers
  • Long battery life
  • Easy media adding through normal OS file copying
  • Price
  • Reasonable size of player with speakers


  • Boxy design
  • No subscription music support
  • Only 4GB (a 2GB version is also available)

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