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, which possesses the finest color screen I've ever seen on a portable player.
The $330 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. Still, the player works nicely with PlaysForSure subscription services such as Napster. In addition, it carries an FM tuner/recorder and a voice recorder.
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 enough video codecs to keep video enthusiasts happy, and an included dongle lets you link the player to a TV.
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 a dongle 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.
Creative Technology Zen VisionM
This iPod alternative offers good sound and a beautiful screen for viewing photos and video.
Price when reviewed: $330
Current prices (if available)
This story, "Creative's Impressive-Sounding Zen VisionM" was originally published by PCWorld.
The VisionM has a touchpad and delivers great-looking video. However, it needs a dongle to sync files.