One thing that isn’t integrated into any software is an online store, aka iTunes. However, Creative has created the Zencast web site, which aggregates content, such as Podcasts onto the Zen. It requires you download and install some extra software, which is currently still in Beta, but it’s a start. At least it looks as though the iPod is the only way to get this type of content. Of course for convenience iTunes wins for buying music and video online, but the latter is still only available inside the US.
One annoying issue is that on several occasions when playing video the player stopped responding. This meant I had to reset it using the pin size hole at the base of the player, so make sure you have one with you when on the move.
Overall though, I must admit that I was really impressed with the Vision: M. The biggest disappointment is that it’s quite thick, especially for the capacity. But in terms of usability it’s on par with the iPod. It slider and button interface isn’t quite as sleek as the simplicity of the click wheel, but the shortcut button is something that the iPod could really do with.
It’s not as special to hold though, and for many that simple fact that it’s not an iPod will put them off. But there are many genuine reasons to buy the Zen Vision: M over the iPod. The screen is undoubtedly superior, it’s got a longer video battery life, it can play many files without conversion, and you can use it with multiple PCs without restriction, while if you want to Autosync, the iPod locks you in to one machine.
Ultimately, if music is your primary interest then the its advantages aren’t as clear cut, though you can easily use the Zen with WMA based stores such as Napster. And if you want to be able to download episodes of 24 or Lost via a Torrent site and drag it quckly over to your player before you dash off to work, to watch on the train then the Zen is the player for you.
The Zen Vision: M is the best media player Creative has yet released and as such, demands attention. The quality of its display is its biggest assest over the fifth generation iPod, and it offers navigation innovations such as a shortcut button. It’s still not as stylish as Apple’s player or quite as effortless to use, but its the best case yet presented on why you should consider a media player other than an iPod.