Creative Zen Vision:M review

4.5 out of 5
£250

For

Screen, ease of use, FM radio, voice recorder, charger included

Against

Thicker than its competitor, not Apple Mac friendly

Every MP3 player released today doesn’t just have to appeal; it has to be better than a certain market leader. It’s a hard task, purely because that player - come on you know which one I am talking about - is so iconic, so ubiquitous, and so popular. Creative is the latest company to produce a model for contention, but is the Vision:M a pretender or winner?

The Vision:M is a bulky thing. Not so bulky that you won’t be able to fit it in your pocket, but noticeably thicker than its nearest rival which it clearly pays homage to.

Creative foundling CEO and Chairman’s response to this is that “Features are more important than size” it certainly a valid point when the device has got as many features as the Vision:M. You can almost forgive the unit for its extra messy 7 millimetres in depth (104 x 62 x 18.6 mm compared to 104 x 61 x 11mm) and heavier weight (163g compared to 136g) compared to that player.

Size aside, the Vision:M is packed full of features. The most noticeable is the 262k colour screen that adorns the front of the unit. It is large, it is bright and it is amazingly clear. We have yet to show our test model to anyone that hasn’t been impressed by the quality and Creative should be awarded for its efforts here. The 262k is also noticeable against the 64k of that other MP3 player that also offers video in a handy pocket sized device on the market.

Rather than a scroll wheel, Creative has opted for a scroll slider and the up and down motion is easy to control. Added to the mix is a rocking switch for sideways movement and aside from this slider, there are four further flushed button areas on the front of the player. A programmable shortcut button, play/pause, back and menu all make for easier control of the Vision:M.

Inside and the menu system is identical to the Creative Zen Vision media player launched earlier this year. Menus are easy to navigate and we especially like the addition of being able to jump through to a specific letter in the alphabet rather than having to scroll forever if you’ve got a large catalogue of songs, images or videos.

This alphabetical addition to the listings is especially handy, because the 30Gb Zen Vision:M can hold up to 15,000 songs using Microsoft’s WMA format rather than having to rely on the larger file sized MP3 format.

But music isn’t the only focus here, and so the player supports a playback of jpeg images up to 8-megapixels in resolution (with the added bonus of being able to zoom in) as well as support for video formats such as MPEG2, MPEG4 Xvid, WMV and MJPEG.

The player also comes with a Microsoft Play For Sure seal of approval for both audio and video meaning that users will be able to get pretty much any content they want on to the player to watch and enjoy.

Currently in the UK, 7 digital and Napster are offering music videos and the odd clips from televisions shows. 7 digital’s offering clips from Channel 5’s FifthGear and shows like MTV’s Dirty Sanchez alongside music videos. The BBC and its interactive movie player (currently on trial in the UK) that will hopefully launch next year will allow future users to access over 500 shows, 300 hours of television 7 days a week.

Rather than being tied to a particular piece of software, the Vision:M gives users the choice of transferring files to and from the device either using Creative’s own Media Source application, Window Media Player (WMP) 10 or Zen Vision:M Media Explorer. The inclusion of support for WMP10 means that for most, using the Vision:M will be straight forward and easy.

Creative is also boasting the fact that the Zen Vision:M offers greater resolution for TV-Out watching. With all the right cables shipped in the box, the unit offers output to a television at 640x480 compared to 320x240 of other players and in our comparative tests the results were not only noticeable, but considerably better.

When it comes to battery life, the new player offers 15 hours of music playback, one more than its nearest competitor and four hours of video playback, again 2 more hours more than a certain player on the market.

The 4 hours means you can watch a whole movie without the fear of running out of power near the end, although to be honest we aren’t so sure why you would want to watch a whole movie in one sitting, after all the screen is only 2.5 inches.

Verdict

On paper the Creative Zen Vision:M is very impressive and luckily in the flesh its very impressive too. The FM radio, voice recorder and power pack are all further plus points for those looking for a good MP3 player that does more than just play music.

When we received the Vision:M for review we have to admit we were sceptical about how well the unit would perform, not on the specs side of things - that’s a given, but on the wow and cool factor. So far most have been impressed.

If you’re looking to start a new club, this is going to be the player to do it with and we might just have a player that will give that other MP3 players a good run for their money.

Dare we say it, this is the new iPod killer.