Handling: new layout
There's actually nothing really new in the Style 300. It has the same controls as the Mozaic but they're just organised differently. This new arrangement is certainly more logical, but four out of the eight buttons have now become much more difficult to use as they're really quite small. It's a shame too, as the four-way controller seen here and in previous Zen Style MP3 players is a nice addition.
Other than the new buttons, there's not much to say about the Zen Style 300's design, as there's been no real change since the Zen Mozaic. The casing is similar to that of the Mozaic, with a finish that looks like a kind of woven carbon. Unfortunately though, Creative has been a little heavy handed with the glossy lacquer, making the player a bit slippy to handle and a real fingerprint magnet. On the whole though, the product is very well finished.
There are two features we really didn't like in the Zen Style 300:
- Creative doesn't seem to think that a button to lock the controls or turn the player on/off is useful, let alone necessary. This basically means that you end up just waiting for the battery to run down to turn the player off. Plus, you'll have assign the keypad lock function to the customisable shortcut button as there's no dedicated button for this either (see insert).
- The Style 300 has a mini-USB port, which although practical, is a bit less useful than the micro-USB format that's now found in the latest mobile phones. It would have been handy to be able to share a cable and charger with a mobile phone, for example.
Apart from a few aesthetic changes, the internal software is pretty much the same and therefore just as good as that found in the previous model.
Sound quality: earphones to rival the iPod!
The iPod was heavily criticised for the poor quality of the earphones supplied as standard, and Creative's earphones are certainly no better. Just because an MP3 player is sold at a budget price shouldn't mean manufacturers systematically supply such poor-quality earphones, forcing to customer to shell out more money for a decent replacement pair. A simple pair of Creative's good old EP-630 would have been just fine!
It's even more of a shame to supply such rubbish earphones when the Style 300 actually has a decent-quality sound output... so long as you don't turn the volume up to full blast. Apart from temporarily deafening you, at top volume you'll notice a clearly audible distortion. Plus, the equalisers just make the output sound even worse so you're better off not bothering with them.
We're not sure it was really worth testing the Style 300's video capabilities but we decided to give it a go anyway. With a ridiculously low resolution and forced re-encoding, this function's only real purpose is to tick a box on the product's spec sheet, just like the dodgy speaker. Extra functions include an FM radio and a basic but practical voice recorder.
What's more, file transfer is only possible via MTP with no compatibility for UMS.
All in all, it's difficult to see any real interest in the Style 300. With Creative's Mozaic MP3 players still likely to be on the shelves for a while yet, I'd grab yourself one of those before it's too late.