As with its Micro, Creative offers the Vision: M in multiple colours: white, black, green, blue and pink. As you can see, we were sent the black one and it looks impressive. When I first saw the Zen in pictures I admit that I dismissed it as an iPod that had been hit with an ugly stick. However, in the flesh it’s not bad at all. The biggest design flaw from an aesthetic perspective is that the screen and the controls are clearly two separate pieces of plastic, whereas the one piece iPod has a much sleeker look it.
However, the Zen closes the gap on the iPod aesthetically as soon as you turn it on. The screen is the same size at 2.5in diagonally, and the same resolution at 320 x 240. But the screen on the Zen can resolve 262,144 colours and for once, numbers used in marketing seem to really mean something. Side by side, the difference is palpable. On the Zen, colours look noticeably richer and more intense and the contrast ratio seems higher. When comparing exactly the same content side by side the iPod looked slightly washed out. If you are planning on watching a lot of video on your device, it’s definitely one point for the Creative.
Another feature of these portable video players is that you can connect them up to TVs and watch your content anywhere, say in a hotel room if you’re on holiday or on a business trip. On the iPod, it only outputs at native resolution, which is 320 x 240, which won’t look great when blown up. On the Creative, the AV cable, available as an accessory, will output up to 640 x 480, so your content will look a lot better. You can incidentally, password protect your video files. That’s a feature I can’t think of any reason you’d need, but then again, I am whiter than white.
At the top of the player, is a sliding switch. Slide and hold it to the left and it turns the player on – slide it to the right and it activates the hold button. In the centre is Creative’s Slide Touch controller. When a track is playing you slide up and down to adjust the volume and when in menus you use it to move through menus. You tap in the centre to make a selection. There are also arrows to the left and right. Skipping tracks and winding within them is achieved by pressing and/or holding on the arrows running along the edges of the slider. It not quite as intuitive as the Apple click wheel but it still works well.