(Pocket-lint) - Apple may rule the roost when it comes to the MP3 player market, but that hasn't stopped Creative Labs offering good player after good player as an alternative.

Its latest, simply called the Creative Zen is a credit-card sized player ready to take on the nano. So does it?

When Creative say credit-card sized, Creative really mean it. The little player (measuring just 55 x 83 x 12mm) boasts a 16.7 million colour 2.5-inch colour screen and will be available in models with 4, 8 or 16GB storage.

Somehow amongst the screen, which is the same size as the Apple iPod, has a series of buttons down the side and an SD card slot for further expansion.

A particularly format friendly device, the new Zen will happily play music in AAC format (so it will play DRM-fee iTunes offerings), MP3 and WMA and likes tunes from subscription services such as Napster.

On the video front it will play video in 320 x 240 resolution straight from MPEG4, DivX, XviD and WMV formats, with software provided to auto convert other video files if you need to.

Failing all that, there is also a built-in FM radio with 32 station presets (something the iPods still lack), a voice recorder, and a personal organiser, which can synchronise contacts, to do lists, and calendars with Microsoft Outlook.

In use and the interface, which is virtually identical to the Creative Vision:M, is easy to use and the screen is crystal clear. Whether its displaying photos or watching videos you will be impressed. Of course we would still wonder why you would want to watch content on something so small but that's nothing to do with the capabilities of the unit.


So what's it like in the hand? The player is small, but the memory and screen large.

After our brief play in September and now a chance to get some time with the player we are still very impressed. It's a fantastic alternative to the iPod nano and with the SD card expansion slot meaning you can expand the memory actually a great alternative to the 5th generation iPods.

If you aren't an Apple fan, but want a MP3 player to play tunes on the go, this is one of the best options available.

Writing by Stuart Miles.