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Regrettably this initial good impression is let down somewhat by the rather cheap feel of the device. Everything just feels a little too plastically, with the 5-way joystick being particularly culpable. Moreover, the way the device is put together means the bottom half of the front fascia, just below the screen, tends to creek under pressure – only adding to the impression of cheapness.
It’s the joystick, however, that’s the most frustrating part of the design leaving you wishing there were simply a set of directional buttons. Not only is it too small, but it’s very stiff which can make switching tracks awkward – especially when the player is sitting on a desk rather in your hand. Also, when cycling upward through menus one can accidentally press inward causing you to enter a menu unintentionally. There’s also no accelerated scroll, making going through a long list of tracks a tiresome task.
Speaking of tiresome tasks, getting tracks onto the device isn’t without its frustrations. Creative has been wise enough to enable drag and drop, while you can also right click on any file or folder and send it to the player to perform the same action – this isn’t the source of my complaint. No, the real problem is simply the amount of time it takes to get files onto the device. As a test I used a 350MB video file and found it took just over three and a quarter minutes to transfer to the device, averaging a piffling 1.8MB/s. Consequently, getting tracks onto the device can take and inordinately large amount of time. Patience is a virtue, but this just stretches it to a fault.
Happily, the provided software is a mostly decent affair. Creative’s MediaSource 5 Organizer is a bit of train crash, but the Zen V Series Media Explorer is far more palatable. It presents itself as part of Window's Explorer window, with plenty of options for adding files using an intuitive add/remove interface – another variation of drag and drop – or the Smart Fill feature which selects music randomly to fill your player. Support for drag and drop means the V Plus can also be used as a Mass Storage Device, although the disappointing transfer performance is a major detractor in this instance.
Importantly it doesn’t try to over complicate things, making transferring files to the device none too complicated. Alternatively you can also use Windows Media Player 10, which is much improved over previous iterations and need not be feared.
The player itself has a functional, if rather uninspired, interface. Everything is displayed in list format, with a fairly standard Music Library layout. There’s support for Playlists and Bookmarking, though I found making playlists using the player rather slow and laborious and is better handled using the software provided.