While at CeBIT pocket-lint was given access to the new portable media player from Creative that will be launching this Christmas. The unit runs Microsoft’s Portable version of the Media Centre edition and offers video, image and music for people on the move.
The handheld unit is roughly the size of Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance, although slightly heavier, and features a brightly-coloured screen on the front. On the left is a D-pad that allows you to easily navigate around the interface while a right hand D-pad lets you play, pause, fast-forward or rewind media files. Six preset options are placed on top for favourites and the unit is connectable to a PC via a USB2.0 socket. The unit doesn’t feature any other method of connection such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and both Microsoft and Creative suggest this is because of copyright issues.
Those familiar with the Media Centre Edition of Windows XP will feel right at home with the interface. At the beginning you are presented with four options - TV, music, pictures and video. From here you can sort files through a variety of different options such as name, date, rating and finding the file in question is relatively easy.
One nice feature we did like was the ability to side step albums rather than having to go up and down directories in the majority of MP3 players. With a 40Gb hard drive the unit can store up to 10,000 songs, 175 hours of video or 100,000 pictures and the capacity, together with its video and imaging capabilities, gives it a very strong position over Apple’s larger iPods.
Microsoft is also anticipating other software providers will offer exclusive content to the platform and have so far signed up Napster to offer music videos for download.
The Creative Zen is one of three players to be available at the launch of the software and one of two to be launched in the UK (the other is from iRiver - the iRiver PMC-140 and this will feature only a 20GB hard drive and probably be considerably cheaper). On the surface the unit seems to be very impressive with a 10-hour battery life and bright screen. Our only concern would be the weight and size of the device. In the brief moment we were allowed to hold the Zen Portable it seemed on the heavy side and nothing like the lightweight iPod that this device must compete with- even though this unit offers video where the iPod doesn't.