Available in 2GB (AU$79.95) and 4GB (AU$99.95) versions, Creative's Mozaic is a plucky and entirely non-threatening budget player with a surprising number of features.
Creative is known for producing MP3 players that are more adorable than a basket full of week-old kittens — observe its Zen V Plus. But the Mozaic, especially the pink version, hits Hello Kitty heights of cuteness.
The player is teeny tiny at 79.5x40x12.8 millimetres and weighs a feathery 43 grams. This miniaturised size and the plastic shell make it look like a toy — not a bad thing if you like your gadgets kid-like, but the Mozaic won't command the same respect that the iPod range enjoys.
As for why it's called the Mozaic, that would be on account of the multi-coloured three-by-three grid of square buttons, which kind of, sort of, resembles a mozaic of tiles. If you squint. The keys are close-set and look built for tiny pixie fingers, but they also require a bit of effort to press, meaning they're less likely to suffer from accidental touches if you have big hands.
The TFT display is 1.8 inches (4.57 centimetres) and 128x160 pixels, making it the same dimensions as the Samsung S3's screen, but with a lower resolution.
For a budget player, the Mozaic has a formidable list of features. There's an FM radio, a voice recorder, and a built-in speaker on the back. An organiser function allows you to sync your calendar, tasks and contacts with your PC.
As with previous Creative players, there are plenty of customisation options — you can play around with themes, set any image as the wallpaper and change the function of the shortcut button.
The Mozaic handles MP3, WMA and WAV audio files. Videos must be transcoded using the bundled Creative Centrale software, but this happens automatically when you transfer them to the player.
Because the Mozaic uses MTP file transfer, it's only compatible with Windows XP and Vista. Mac owners are unfortunately not invited to the party — unless they're using Windows via Parallels or Boot Camp.
The player's matte surfaces may be immune to the finger smudges that plague shiny iPod Touches, but they suffer from an unexpected malady: they get very dirty very quickly. Our pink Mozaic acquired some black marks after being toted to and fro in a handbag among a bunch of other gadgets and miscellany. Keep it separate from the rest of your junk if you want it to stay pristine.
Though they look funky, the navigation keys can be a bit finicky to use because they're so teeny and squished together. They also make a bit of a racket when pressed — not something you'll notice when listening to tunes, but fellow train or bus passengers may give you the odd dirty look.
The built-in speaker is surprisingly powerful. We tested it against the second-gen iPod Touch and found that the Mozaic had clearer, louder audio that was less subject to distortion. A very good result for a sub-$100 player.
Music via the headphones is similarly laudable. While there was occasional fuzzing when cymbals were hit, songs from Radiohead's In Rainbows album had a full-bodied sound, with finger movements on guitar frets easily detectable. Changing the EQ presets didn't make a lot of difference — certainly nothing close to the significant sonic shifts we heard when testing the EQ on Samsung's S3 player. Similarly, activating bass boost just made things sound more muddy. We'd advise sticking to the plain vanilla audio settings.
Due to the relatively low resolution of the display, photos and videos don't look great. The screen doesn't offer the smooth motion you get on an iPod Nano, and you'll notice pixellation when viewing pictures. As a notion, compulsory video transcoding sounds like a real drag, but we transferred a handful of WMV files and found the process quick and painless.
The Mozaic is a competent player at a low price, but the kiddy looks and miniaturised buttons won't appeal to everyone. If you want a hardy player with good audio quality and a decent, powerful speaker, you'll be content with this model.