The only other thing that’s obviously lacking compared to the iPod Shuffle is a integrated clip for attachting it to a belt or shirt – primarily, this is for looking hip and dancing in Apple adverts. This doesn’t mean Creative hasn’t thought of this however, just that you must purchase a skin accessory that has the requisite clip-on mechanism. Similarly, Creative also produces a number of other accessories including an armband, and a key ring holder. So, to be fair to Apple, to get identical functionality out of the Zen Stone does cost a little more than the retail price, though at £6.79 for the skin and clip the Zen Stone is still cheaper when all is accounted for.
In the package Creative includes a set of earphones, a short USB cable and quick start guide. There’s no software CD, though you can download a simple Drag and Drop software utility from Creative’s website. Sadly, there’s no support for any kind of Smart Fill function, so you can’t instruct the software to fill your player with 1GB of music from your library. It seems like a bit of an oversight, though you can use Windows Media Player 10’s own Shuffle feature to similar effect.
The bundled earphones are a typically dreadful affair, probably worse than the mostly average ones found in the Zen V Plus package. Highs sound compressed, lows are more or less nonexistent and mid-range is muddy and unpleasant. The player itself boasts above average sound quality, if anything the highs sound a tiny bit compressed compared to the excellent sounding Zen V Plus but there’s little to complain about, while the Zen Stone will also output impressively high volumes.
As already alluded to the Zen Stone is a Drag and Drop device, so it’s pretty easy to get music onto the player without messing about re-encoding or checking music in or out. Rather like the Zen V Plus and other flash based MP3 players, though, the Zen Stone does suffer from having rather slow transfer rates, despite supporting USB 2.0. This is something of an accepted evil these days, and at 1GB at least there isn’t as much space to fill as on larger players. Format support brings little surprises, with support for MP3, WMA, and the Audible audio book service. You can forget about OGG, and considering the capacity of the player lossless support would be pointless.