- Record your favorite songs from your personal CD collection or the Internet
- Nonmechanical operation for skip-free, continuous playback
- Combined 64 MB RAM (32 MB onboard, 32 MB on removable media)
- Includes FM tuner and voice-recording capabilities
- LCD song title readout
It's hard to believe that so many features could be packed into such a tiny package, but the Creative Labs Nomad MP3 player is one little dynamo. With 64 MB combined memory (32 MB onboard and an included 32 MB SmartMedia card), an FM tuner, voice recording capabilities, and a bevy of extras, the Nomad is a terrific deal in a digital music player.
We loved how ultratiny the Nomad is--it truly deserves to be called pocket-sized. The case is made of a solid silver-colored plastic, and the buttons run down the sides of the player instead of being on the player's face. We appreciated this design, since it's easy to accidentally bump buttons on the front of a player. The Nomad also has a hold button, which stops buttons from activating if you accidentally bump them.
Setup of the Nomad is relatively straightforward. We installed the software, connected the docking cradle to our PC's parallel port, and we were ready to go. Be sure to check your BIOS settings to make sure your parallel port is configured to ECP mode, or the player won't work at all. If you're unfamiliar with how to do this, check your computer's manual and the Nomad's documentation, as this process can be tricky.
The software that comes with the player is somewhat unintuitive. Most MP3 players let you drag tracks directly from your software MP3 player to the hardware, but the Nomad adds an extra step. It ships with MusicMatch, a terrific MP3 utility. You can use either it or another program that you favor as your default player. You can record all your MP3s to MusicMatch from CDs or the Internet, but you can't move them directly to the Nomad from this interface. You must use the Creative Nomad Manager software that comes with the player to transfer files. This makes the process somewhat longer and more tedious. We hope that Creative Labs remedies this problem in the next incarnation of the Nomad.
The earbuds that ship with the Nomad are not the best quality, but music still sounds decent through them. We do recommend that you get a more expensive pair, as it will greatly improve the sound quality.
Skipping from track to track on the Nomad is simple, and you can use the equalizer to select one of four presets--normal, classic, jazz, or rock. The player has repeat, all, and shuffle functions; however, the shuffle function doesn't remember which tracks it's already played, and at one point we got stuck listening to the same track three times in a six-track stretch.
The circular display, while clever, is somewhat difficult to read. There is no backlight, so you can't see the display in low-light situations. Another complaint is that the display scrolls through the track name and artist at the beginning of each song, but stops after the first scroll-through and shows only the elapsed time until the next track starts. The display does show helpful information on mode, battery life, whether or not the memory card is in, and which track number you're currently listening to.
The voice recorder is a great feature that lets you record up to four hours on the player. We also appreciated the addition of an FM tuner. While it's not perfect--it uses the headphone cord as an antenna, which can cause stations to fade in and out--it's a great bonus for those times when you're tired of your current selection. We quickly programmed in 10 presets that are easily selectable in the FM tuner mode.
Despite the shortcomings with the software and display, we were thoroughly impressed with the Nomad. Its tiny size, 64 MB of included memory, FM tuner, and voice recording capabilities make it representative of everything fun and exciting about MP3 players and digital music. Be warned, though: the Nomad is not upgradable to support any future compression formats, so it's possible that the player may become outdated. --Ara Jane Olufson
- 64 MB combined memory
- Nice quality FM tuner
- Voice recording capabilities
- Unintuitive software
- Difficult-to-read display
- Not upgradable