- MP3 Audio
- USB connection offers faster transfer rates and ease of connectivity
- 64 MB SmartMedia card allows hours of CD-quality audio or voice recordings
- Built-in FM tuner stores up to 32 preset stations
- Large icon-based LCD screen with backlight for easy viewing in any environment
- Upgradable to support multiple digital-audio formats and future software extensions
Dubbed a Personal Digital Entertainment (PDE) device by Creative Labs, the Nomad II is one of those gadgets that's so fun to play with you'll find yourself forgetting it's useful, too.
When portable MP3 players first hit the market a year or so ago, they were relatively simple devices good for one thing: playing MP3 files. Now it seems, as companies have learned consumers want more than just that, today's devices can no longer be described as just MP3 players.
This version ships with a 64 MB removable SmartMedia card, but we had mixed feelings about Creative's decision to rely solely on removable media. While it has its advantages, in the form of being able to swap out the kind of music you're listening to, we would have preferred 64 MB of onboard memory, with a SmartMedia expansion slot so we could increase the capacity even more if needed.
The Nomad II ships with software called the Creative Digital Audio Center, which is basically a full version of MusicMatch Jukebox Deluxe 5.0 with a Creative Labs skin on it. We liked this addition simply for the fact that MusicMatch Jukebox is simple software to use for creating MP3s from CDs and other audio files. Likewise, while we found the Nomad II Manager software easy to navigate and use, we were left with the feeling that some options were sacrificed in the name of ease-of-use. For instance, the ability to change the order of songs in memory would have been welcome.
From an audio perspective, the Nomad II couldn't have performed any better. The equalizer had good settings, and the ability to program user-defined settings was awesome. Furthermore, a wired remote control and bass-enhanced, behind-the-head style headphones completed the package.
As additional memory is still relatively expensive, and most of us don't have extra cards lying around the house, there will come a time when you'll tire of the songs on the device. And without the presence of your PC--and no additional SmartMedia cards--you're at a loss. This is when the Nomad II's FM tuner came in handy. During morning commutes, it was easy to toggle between The Howard Stern Show and NPR, as the player holds up to 32 FM station presets.
The Nomad II's third--and most overlooked--feature is that of a digital voice recorder. As voice recordings aren't the memory hogs that music files are, the Nomad II can record up to four hours' worth. This feature is perfect for dictating messages to yourself or for the fledging journalist recording interviews. The Nomad II Manager software even allows users to upload voice files from the Nomad II to your PC.
MP3 players are great for music lovers on the go. Because they have no moving parts, they're well known for skip-free music. To test the Nomad II, we loaded it up with some hip-hop and headed down to the local BMX spot in San Francisco. With the player clipped on to a belt, we put it through its paces over a multitude of jumps and with more than enough crashes. We did our best to make it skip, but it performed perfectly (though beware--the Nomad II isn't scratchproof). Only after the battery started to get low (the Nomad II offers anywhere from eight to 10 hours of playback time) did performance degrade. But this was easily remedied by dropping in a new AA battery.
MP3 music--like everything else technology related--is in a constant state of flux. To that end, the Nomad II ships with reprogrammable firmware that should enable it to support future digital-audio formats and software extensions as they emerge. So, hopefully, you'll be enjoying your Nomad II for years to come. --William O'Neal
- Awesome sound
- Excellent behind-the-head style headphones
- Useful wired remote control
- USB interface makes connecting to your computer simple and downloading fast
- Intuitive software
- Supports numerous digital-audio formats
- No onboard memory
- Simple software could be more robust
- Navigating the LCD menu can be a pain