Pros Unsurpassed build quality and feature set. Best-in-class screen. Excellent video performance and superb photo displays.
Cons Sound quality very good, but probably not class-leading. Color saturation could be better for some content. Reflective screen surface requires viewing adjustments in bright light.
Summary For those of you, like me, who have been struggling to make a PMP purchase decision, this Zen Vision review's for you.
I've read all the hype, studied the formal product reviews and the user reviews. And I've listened closely to the complaints. But the Vision has so much going for it on paper, I had to see it for myself.
Well, I ordered one (from B&H, a solid on-line retailer) and got the package on Friday. And having just spent the weekend with it, perhaps an account of my first-hand experience will be useful to others.
Let me start with the physical esthetics. Hands down, this is the best-designed product in the PMP category, and it's the first I've seen that looks good in a head-to-head comparison with the iPod Video. I mean, real good. All the reviewers have noted the great build quality, but they don't convey how beautiful it actually looks and feels. The white magnesium case has a soft pearlescent finish, and the blue backlit controls really create a warm gadget. I've held all of them in my hands --a few Archos, the Samsung, the Epson, iRivers, even the new Nokia wireless tablet. None of them comes close to this beauty. Perfect 10.
Now for the screen. This is where I suspect most would-be buyers have major concerns based on user feedback. We all read about interference patterns, narrow viewing angles, difficulty with adjustments. I certainly was concerned.
All of these comments are not without basis. But they need to be taken in perspective: except for the Epson, there's no other screen like the Vision's. Detail is amazing, and overall graphics quality is superb. The iPod? Not even close when the source content is 640X480 MPG4.
But the screen's not perfect. It is highly reflective. When viewing dark material, and you happen to brightly lit, it will be a challenge to manage your reflection to avoid wash-out. That said, reflections are much less of an issue when viewing photos than when viewing videos. Photos are much brighter than video.
As to the viewing angle, the screen delivers on the personal in personal media player. A slight shift to the left or right wipes out the image. There's a bit more latitude in the vertical plane. The bottom line is that the device is not intended for group viewing. But there are comfortable viewing angles for a single user. And I think the best results will come from slight angular adjustments in response to different image attributes.
I've come to conclude that the screen viewing angle limitations are not the result of Creative's decision to buy cheap components. There's nothing cheap about the device, and it doesn't make much sense to go cheap on a display in a product where the display quality is the major selling point. Instead, in my unscientific opinion, I think it's related to the transreflective nature of the display.
Which is a nice touch, by the way, because you can easily see the screen when not backlit in just about any lighting. You don't want to view video or photos this way, but when listening to music it avoids the need to fire up the backlight to see what's happening.
The display also suffers a bit from Creative's failure to include a color saturation control in the firmware. As bright as the photos are, at least the ones I transferred to the device (taken by a Canon Digital Rebel XT, no less) tend to look undersatured. Creative's demo photos don't have the same problem. They've probably been tuned for the display, but the point is, they look great -- well-saturated and balanced. So the screen is plainly capable of doing a better job of displaying photos. A simple saturation tweak would cure the problem. Most viewers will be blown away by the crispness of the photos, and they won't notice the under-saturation.
Do these screen issues take something away from the Vision? Yes, they do. I give the screen an 8. But they aren't serious enough to turn thumbs down on the device. All things considered, there's just nothing else on the market comparable right now. Next week, of course, who knows?
Otherwise, my experience with the player has been very positive. I spent most of the weekend experimenting with different ways of transfering content to the Vision. Zen Vision Media Explorer makes it a snap to import photos. Photos should be scaled down to 640X native display resolution (Picasa makes this easy) so the pixels map to the display.
Video Vault (the updated on-line version) does an excellent job converting video to 640X480 MPG4 for transfer to the player. I used it without cracking the user guide for a ripped DVD, for captured home video, and for TV shows recorded by XP MCE2005. All worked perfectly.
The 640X480 res MPG4 option in Video Vault makes a big difference in the quality of the video. MCE2005 syncs quickly and nicely with the Vision, but it outputs only in 320X240 WMA format, with lower bandwidth as well as resolution. THe files are smaller, but quality is what counts here.
Music sounds good to me, but at the very end of certain songs, as the song finally fades out, I can hear very faint electronic artifacts. I find that the EQ settings affect this. Let's face it, though. If you're a music purist, you probably shouldn't be looking at the Vision.
The FM tuner works well, but it's a bit finicky with static in weak-reception areas. Compact flash functionality is intended to support file transfers as an adjunct to photography, not for photo-browsing. Again, it works perfectly well. Transfers are a bit slow with large (>5MB) files.
So there you have it: the definitive Vision review. I think most buyers will love this device and can feel comfortable owning the first really high-quality video PMP on the market. There will certainly be others, and perhaps their quality will surpass the Vision. But I can recommend it as worth owning now.
Hope this helps you decide.
Pros 1. packed with features 2. very good price 3. design
Cons on the fly video recording is missing but, again, at such price it is a wonder gadget
Summary What happened to music is happening to video, right now. You can store and carry loads of it. And you do not have to convert your whole collection, as this toy reads DivX4&5 and Xvid, and these are the most popular formats. There is no device - but PC - that can read all the formats. But if you do not want to carry laptop: this is the way to go.
Plus: it has Compact Flash reader to upload on the fly pics from camera.
Plus: it looks magnificent.
I really like it.
Pros Bright Screen, Intuitive Interface
Cons In-Built Speakers Quite Weak, Buttons Quite Stiff
Summary Overall, I like this gadget. The screen is bright enough and apart from some .avi files, the rest of the video files played seamlessly. Audio quality is good when using earphones. My major gripe is the screen. I used this baby for around 9 days then one day while I was on the way to work and had the urge to watch an episode of my favourite anime, I noticed a black blotch on the right hand side of the screen.
I had kept the Zen Vision in its box on my bookshelf and was sparingly used prior to that. So I made my way to the Creative HQ to get it fixed.
However, after analyzing the screen the Customer Service staff told me that the damage was not covered under the warranty and the cause of the blotch is due to putting a sharp object on top of the Zen Vision.
That thing was a SGD$699 investment and is still brand new. Why would I want to put something hard or sharp on top of it?
The staff, a lady, did mentioned to me that if it was returned within 7 days of the purchase date, it would have been replaced. Well, I'm stumped and stupified.
Well, here's the frustrating part of it all. I figured I wasn't gonna live with the blotch so I enquired how much would the charges be should I wanted it to be repaired at my cost.
Her answer -> THE SCREEN CAN'T BE REPAIRED SINCE IT IS ATTACHED TO THE HARDWARE INSIDE THE DEVICE.
Now, why would Creative create a device that can't be repaired?
What's the point of having the warranty if at their own assumption and discretion that I had put a heavy and sharp object and thus nullfying the warranty?
Right now I have a pristine Creative Zen Vision,a SGD$699 investment nicely tuck in its box. I tried to use that gadget again but everytime I switch it ON, it reminded me of the fact that the screen can't be repaired. I'm disgusted. Something with such a beautiful screen and yet so flawed.
I owned a SONY PSP, 3rd Gen IPOD and even had purchase a Creative Jukebox before.
This is by far the most painful investment I ever had.
So beware, be very aware of that SCREEN....
Just don't get the screen accidentally or purposely damaged.... You just might not be able to appreciate the screen anymore after that since it CAN'T BE REPAIRED.
"Three month review"on by frog
Pros screen is extremely clear, easy to use, great sound
Cons a slightly larger hard drive would have been nice
Summary I have owned the Zen Vision for three months now so here is my review.
Audio: It sounds great. People complain about the ear buds that come with it and they are crap but that is to be expected. There is not an mp3 player out there that comes with decent ear buds. It is powerful enough to power my Grados. Very easy to search and navigate. Creative has an update that now shows album art. You can adjust the equalization to anything you want.
Photos: The screen is extremely sharp. Very clear. Yes, the viewing angle is basically limited to one person but if you are wanting to show a large group of people hook it up to a tv. The compact flash card reader is nice. I was able to download RAW files from my Canon Rebel but you can't view them. Now I don't have to carry a laptop with me.
Videos: I'll admit that the video player was not the big reason why I bought this but I am impressed with the videos. They are very sharp. I know that others here have given more in depth reviews of the video functions. I have not had a problem with uploading any videos to it.
Etc: The battery life for listening to audio only was 9 hours after three months of heavy use. I haven't done a video only test yet so I can't give you a time for it. It is extremely easy to upload/download stuff to it. I can just plug it in with a usb and add or copy anything I want without having to use any special software. It would occasionally lock up on me but after the last software update from Creative I have not had a problem with that. It is very solid and feels well built.
Overall: I am very happy with it and would recommend it to anyone. A larger hard drive would have been nice.Updated
The newest firmware update corrects the screen angle viewing problem!
"Get something better for $400.... Video ipod is a better choice even after buying all the other crap"on by Jonfri04
Pros High Res Screen , Decent Sound,
Cons Slow Interface, Screen is from a palm so it looks best only when the whole interface is turned vertical.... Oh yeah ...IT FREEZES CONSISTANTLY....
Summary The Creative Zen vision has a varity of constant problems that I encounter.
1. The music mangagement seems to be very slow, when browsing though songs. When browsing and pressing the scroll button rapidly, the vision will freeze, and lock up. (Removing the battery is the only remedy) 2. When viewing photos, transferd from a camera, the vision will freeze, also when scrolling though lots of photos.
3. When playing music, the vision freezes when pressing play or pause too many times, advanceing to next track too many times. The Random tracks.... really is not random at all, as the same track can be heard in one sitting, as well as a majority or only one artist. When playing video the vision has many problems, due to specific codec support, and bitrate resoulution capibilities that are not found any where in documentation. This seems to be a (hit and miss)issue. When playing a video, and pausing or playing the Vision will lock up, and freeze, as well as scrolling (FF and REW). The Connection between the USB and the computer seems to work sometimes, and sometimes it wont recognize it.
These problems cannnot only be seen on my device. One has to only check the disscussion forums on your website. There are hundreds of comments posted about the very same issues I have mentioned. A promised firmware update by the end of december 2005 never happend. Saddly the things mentioned above, keep me from enjoying the Creative Zen Vision.