"Amazing piece of technology"4.5 starson by mad$cot
Pros: battery life, audio/video quality, built in accessories
Cons: Buttons slightly stiff, touchpad a bit sensitve untill you get used to it
Summary: I have only used the 5G ipod, which i borrowed for a week and the Creative Zen Vision:M which i currently own. As i am aware the Iriver is also a good player but i have no experience of using it.
In comparing the 2 players the Zen is better in terms of playback quality, but the ipod is thinner & has a slightly easier to use interface.
Audio: At maximum volume the Zen produces clear and distinctive sound, whereas the ipod has a tendancy to distort. I used the Eagles - Hotel California on both players at the same bitrate, if you are an audiophile...get the Zen, even though the headphones bundled with both are below par. As the Zen isn't tied with itunes, it supports a greater range of audio formats.
Video: Here the Zen strides ahead, the screen can display 4x the colours at the same resolution for a longer time, plus supports far more in terms of video file types. I already have a large number of films in .avi format. With the ipod they needed converting, so i was expecting the same of the zen, but was surprised to find it could play 95% of my films already.
Photos: Very little to distinguish between the 2 here, the only advantage is given to the Zen as its screen can display a greater number of colours.
Ease of use: The ipod undeniably wins here with its circular wheel, pick up an ipod and within 30 seconds you know how to use it. The Zen takes a little longer to get used to, sometimes seeming a little to sensitve even on low settings, but has the ability to scroll rapidly & personally i found a vertical scrolling movement more natural than a circular one.
Menus: Both are very similar in terms of menu layout, and nether really wins hands down as both are equally easy to use and understand. The thing i like about the Zen is the abiliy to change the themes of the player & background image, away from the white & blue layout of the ipod.
Software: I am biased agains itunes, but this is because i have a large existing music collection, and when installing it, by my mistake, i missed the 'let itunes organise my music' option...which screwed up my collecton somewhat. If you dont have a music collection then itunes wins in terms of avaliable music content & ease of access to it. But Creative are catching up. If you have an existing collection then go for the Zen, as you can drag and drop music files using Explorer, which is fast and easy.
I use Winamp to sync both my zen and the ipod, as the newest version supports both, which is very handy and avoided issues i personally had with itunes. This also avoided issues with itunes erasing content from the ipod, that hadn't been synched from my pc.
Asthetics: In terms of size (thickness) nothing can really compete with the ipod, the only problem being sometimes it feels too thin, as if you might break it. The Zen is larger, but feels better built and as it has curved edges also feels nicer in the hand.
Accessories: The ipod blatantly has superiority, as more 3rd party manufacurers produce accessories for it. But with the Zen its ether built in (Fm tuner/microphone) or provided (ac charger), the only things im likely to buy for the Zen are the dock & av cable.
Overall the ipod has better advertising, and is good for a first time user if you dont need superb audio quality and dont have an existing music collection. On the downside the battery life for video playback is poor (2 hrs or so) and apple dont provide an ac charger, so u have to be near a pc to charge it, unless you pay the extra.
If you have a existing audio collecton & enjoy high quality audio get the Zen, but ditch the headphones that come with it. Battery life for video is slightly better at 4 hrs but still not ideal, but at least an ac charger is provided so you can charge it away from a Pc.