The Creative ZEN Style M300 is the latest MP3 player from Creative. Boasting a small size, budget price but some big features, it looks to be a promising option for those who don’t want everything Apple branded.

The M300 is obviously competing with the likes of the iPod Nano for size, measuring a sleek 55.2 x 44.2 mm and just 12.6 mm deep. The screen is a 1.45″ TFT with 128×128 pixels and displaying 262K colours.

I have the white version (as pictured) but it’s available in red, black and yellow. Prices are £39.99 for 4GB, £59.99 for 8GB and £79.99 for 16GB.

The thick black band around the screen is there for good reason – it’s a touch sensitive control. Simply touch the outsides of the screen to move tracks, access options, etc. That works well but the small size and low resolution of the screen means that although text is readable, it’s not of the highest quality.

There is a volume control on one side and a micro SD card slot on the other – this slot allows for up to 32GB extra storage to be added to the 4-16GB default – along with the microphone. On the bottom is a reset “hole”, headphone and USB socket. On top is a sliding switch which controls power and the key lock.

It uses the standard Creative menu navigation system – it’s okay but not overly intuitive. There are a wide range of options available – a built in radio, voice recording, photo and video viewing, etc. There isn’t the wide array of audio enhancements that my previously reviewed Creative Zen X-Fi Style had, but it does have apt-X on-board and you can stream audio wirelessly using Bluetooth – an excellent feature. Indeed, there is no custom equaliser and you can only choose from a small number of presets.

However, even without all the bells and whistles, the M300 still sounds good. And getting music onto it is a breeze – it appears as a hard drive when connected to a PC so you can simply drag and drop contents. Otherwise, you can use Windows Media Player to synchronise to the device.

In the box you don’t get much – some average wired headphones, a neatly folded set of manuals and a USB cable. A 3-in-1 clip is available for nearly £20. It’s best that accessories such as this are separate because it can keep the price down for those who don’t need it, but at £20 it is a bit steep.

Reading reviews from users, the main issues appear to be the lack of ability to neatly sync playlists (documentation on how to do it can be found here) as well as the Micro SD option. From what I can tell – I’ve not tried it myself – the player can’t actually play the music from the card but has to copy it onto the internal memory first.

But these, and the lack of sound enhancements, are really quite insignificant when you consider that you’d be getting a Bluetooth streaming, full colour, 4GB, small MP3 player for less than £40.

One tip – make sure you have the latest firmware if you purchase this device. The latest version has some extra stability for the Bluetooth and adds compatibility with .m3u format playlists.

[review]It lacks some options but gains in others. For a tiny bluetooth MP3 player you can’t go much wrong and at less than £40 for the 4GB model, it’s an absolute bargain[/review]

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