Creative Zen VisionM
At a Glance
Creative ZEN Vision:M 30GB Media Player - Black (2.5
The VisionM has a touchpad and delivers great-looking video. However, it needs a dongle to sync files.
Despite a few shortcomings, Creative's Zen VisionM is a great Apple iPod alternative. I tested a 30GB shipping model of the video-ready music device ($300 as of 7/21/06), which possesses the finest color screen I've ever seen on a portable player.
The VisionM sounded great, too, though audio codec support is a bit weak--with support for MP3, WMA, and WAV, but not for AAC, FLAC, or Ogg Vorbis formats. In the PC World Test Center's new audio quality tests, the VisionM performed admirably, earning an overall score of Very Good. The player achieved a loud level before reaching 1 percent distortion (an industry standard measurement), and generated little noise (our test equipment recorded a high signal-to-noise ratio). See details on how we test audio players.
The VisionM does more than play music. It supplies a raft of options for photo and video viewing on the unit's beautiful 320-by-240-pixel screen. The device supports more video codecs than any other audio player we tested this month: MPEG-4, MPEG-2, MPEG-1, DivX4, DivX5, Motion JPEG, and XviD. The only omission is H.264 support. An included adapter and cable lets you link the player to a TV.
The VisionM works nicely with PlaysForSure subscription services such as Napster. In addition, it carries an FM tuner/recorder and a voice recorder.
I had no trouble navigating files on the VisionM, thanks to the player's touchpad interface. With the touchpad at the default sensitivity setting, a few quick flicks of my thumb allowed me to move through lengthy lists of artists and albums, though landing on a specific selection was sometimes challenging.
Unfortunately, the VisionM has a few drawbacks when compared to the 30GB video-ready iPod. For starters, it's about 1.5 times as thick, and you need the included adapter to charge the player and sync files to it. Also, its MediaSource application needs work, especially when matched against Apple's slick iTunes. If you can look beyond these flaws, however, you'll find a capable portable media player with useful features and a stellar screen.