Creative ZEN Vision:M - An iPod alternative ?

Despite a few shortcomings, Creative’s ZEN Vision:M is a great Apple iPod alternative. The 30GB shipping model of the video-ready music device, possesses the finest color screen ever seen on a portable player.

The VisionM sounds 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 playing 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.

This means that you can easily store any movie in the player and watch it on your friend’s big screen television— without lugging around your DVD player. There is 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 the thumb allowed us to move through lengthy lists of artists and albums, though landing on a specific selection was sometimes challenging.

Unfortunately, the Vision:M 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.