Apple basically owns the portable media player market - some sources quote it as enjoying well above 50% market share, while competitor Creative has a meager 2-3%. Still, that hasn’t stopped Creative from trying - their Zen Vision: M 60GB Portable Media Player presents the consumer with an alternative to the iPod not to be ignored.
On the surface, it’s shaped like an iPod, equally tall but about a few mm thicker. All the controls are on the top surface and the touch interface allows one to scroll through songs and folders easily and quickly. It’s pretty easy to navigate the Zen Vision common-sense system, but it does lag at times, especially with videos.
Audio is high quality, and the volume is strong and distinct. It only supports MP3, WMA and WAV audio formats though. Playlists are better than with older Zen models I’ve tried, you just add tracks to a queue and then call it a list. It lets you choose to listen to random tracks, albums, and frequently or rarely played tracks. The quality of any format played is outstanding regardless of your speakers, too.
If audio was good, video is great especially when compared to other media players. The Zen supports DivX, XviD, WMV9 and MPEG so all those XviD and DivX files you downloaded can be watched without extra converting. The LCD is crystal clear and bright, great for watching all the TV shows and movies you‘ve got.
You also get to store all the photos you want in the Zen - standard . bmp, . png, . tiff and . gif formats all convert to jpeg automatically on upload. Pictures can be rated, rotated, zoomed in and set as wallpaper - once you choose a wallpaper you get to adjust its brightness and change the color settings to suit your style.
For all file uploads, the Zen uses its own Zen Media Explorer as the tool for uploading stuff, ripping, and converting formats. Looks a lot like the basic Windows folder interface and it’s pretty straightforward, but it only works on Windows XP and doesn’t support UMS.
Battery life is pretty good. You could watch about 2-3 hours of video with one charge, with practically no heat coming off when you’re enjoying your videos.
So should you buy the Creative Zen Vision: M 60GB Media player?
It has great video and audio quality, a convenient and easy-to-use navigation for both its media upload tool and in the player itself, and has a nice, bright screen - but it’s only for the Windows XP, and it lags a bit at times. Definitely not for the hardcore Mac users, but I’d recommend it to anyone else - a similarly priced iPod has only 30GB of space.
If you’re looking to buy online, get it at Newegg.com at just $236 with free shipping after a $30 mail-in rebate, which is just about the best price online - check it out here at Pricegrabber.com. Plus, Newegg has a great return policy in the rare event that you get a defective Zen, and they’ll foot all the shipping bills incurred. Over 75% of buyers there rated it 5/5 - it’s certainly a good choice.
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