You’ve got to hand it to Creative. Or at least feel sorry for it. No sooner had it helped create the portable digital media player market with its Zen Jukebox, when Apple swept in relatively late in the game to sweep up all the plaudits with its iPod, the latest version of which I’ll be looking at tomorrow. To add insult to injury, it turns out that Creative even owns the patent on the interface that Apple used to such good effect - only Apple slapped a nifty wheel on the front of its device and the rest, as they say, is history. The sales figures speak for themselves. In the last quater of the year alone Apple sold over ten million iPods and according to some figures has a 65 per cent share on the hard drive based market. Creative, on the other hand, has around 2-4 per cent of the market. Wow, Apple must be shaking in its boots.
So shouldn’t Creative just hang up its own boots and give up? Well, one could argue that Apple’s success over the past few years has been as much down to its competitors being so poor almost as much as the quality of its own product. The Zen Vision: M though, is the best media player that Creative has yet released, so for the sake of keeping things interesting the market should be glad it hasn’t thrown in the towel yet.
Of course, there’s no questioning that the Vision: M is a ‘me-too’ product, but Creative has done it well enough not to dismiss it out of hand, beating the iPod in several notable areas. Whether it’s good enough to sway the pure Mac faithful is moot as it only works on Windows XP – no other OS is supported but for Windows users it’s something to think about.
The device is a similar shape to the iPod; a portrait style device with the display at the top and controls at the bottom. It’s the same height as the iPod, but thicker at 1.8cm, compared to 1.4cm for the 60GB iPod. It’s also slightly heavier at 160g vs. 157g. This wouldn’t be a problem except that the Vision M has only 30GB capacity, with no 60GB option. By contrast, the 30GB iPod is a relatively waif-life 1.1cm thick. The Zen is a chunky ‘ol fella then, but with the rear tapering slightly it feels quite comfortable in the hand and at no time do you feel that you’re going to drop it. Ok, you won’t be personalising you’re Zen with a engraving or checking your make-up in it, but you won’t have to worry about spoiling the rear with finger prints and scratches and the circular thing going on round the Zen logo is cool.