We've been patiently waiting (and waiting) for the official debut of the Creative Zen Micro Photo ever since Creative originally announced the colour-screen version of the Zen Micro back in January at CES 2005. Well, it has finally arrived, and we're happy we waited. The retail version of the Zen Micro Photo is an improvement over the prototype in key areas, notably hard-drive capacity. The microdrive MP3 player is a hair smaller than its predecessor, yet it offers 8GB of storage for a reasonable £200 (you can find it cheaper if you shop around online).
As a portable audio player, the Creative Zen Micro Photo is top-notch, and it makes a decent photo viewer. Unfortunately, it doesn't integrate the two as well as we'd expect at this point in the photo MP3 player game.
Surprisingly, the Creative Zen Micro Photo is a fraction smaller (51 by 84 by 18mm) than its monochrome-screen sibling, yet it manages to pack in 2GB to 3GB more storage, offering an 8GB microdrive, or about 2,000 songs. It doesn't pack on any extra weight either, keeping its lightweight status at 116g. And you still get the easily removable and replaceable battery, a standard mini USB connection, and a hold switch. There's also a choice of ten colours -- black, dark blue, grey, green, light blue, orange, pink, purple, red and white -- though some shades are slightly different than those of the Zen Micro. But the main difference, of course, is the Zen Micro Photo's small-but-pretty, full-colour OLED screen. It measures 41mm (1.6 inches) diagonally, can display 262,144 colours, and is viewable from any angle.
The innovative touch pad that made its debut on the Creative Zen Micro carries over to the Photo, though it has been slightly improved. Foremost, Creative has decreased the sensitivity of the Low setting so that the pad doesn't seem nearly as touchy as the original Micro's. Also, the face of the player has a textured feel to it, lending a more tactile sensation to the controls. Still, those used to pressing real buttons might need some time to adjust. The layout of the touch pad remains the same, with a vertical scroll strip flanked by back, rewind, play/pause, fast-forward and menu keys. This, combined with a great user interface, makes for highly intuitive navigation.