You’ll notice, too, that the Clip has quite a sizeable screen on board. Obviously, the Shuffle has no screen at all, so it’s no contest on that front and neither does the standard Zen Stone. But the Zen Stone Plus does and it’s not a patch on the Clip’s 1in screen which is larger, brighter, clearer and more colourful. And you can actually use it to browse the music on the player while you’re listening too; the Zen Stone Plus has the irritating habit of playing any track automatically as you browse to it, rendering the screen pretty useless.
The Clip packs other features in just as tightly as the Plus: there’s an FM tuner here, which you can record from, and an external microphone so it can turn its hand to dictaphone duties. But look elsewhere and you’ll find it edging ahead again: the battery will last five-and-a-half hours longer than the Zen Stone Plus and its also good value for money. At just £22.40, the 1GB Clip is around half the price of both the iPod Shuffle and the 2GB Zen Stone Plus.
So far, however, I’ve looked at aspects in which the three players are comparable. But there’s one area where the Clip takes several strides forwards, leaving the Shuffle and Zen Stone Plus in the dust – ease-of-use and on-device music management. The Clip’s d-pad is easier to use than the Shuffle’s and far less fiddly than the Zen Stone’s. The backlight also means you can see it in dim light or the dark, and that big, bright screen means browsing around tracks and albums is really easy. But that’s not the Clip’s only party trick – you can even build playlists on the fly with this little player. Just press and hold the button at the centre of the thumb-friendly d-pad and the track is added to your playlist. Considering many more expensive players completely miss this feature out, it’s an impressive inclusion.