Pros Beautiful screen, great codec support, CompactFlash support, large harddrive, great cost/benefit ratio
Cons Can't record video/audio, poor viewing angle, not necessarily for PC novices
Summary An earlier opinion that assessed that the Zen needs to convert video files to 320x240 WMV files is mistaken - the Zen has taken virtually every file I've thrown at it. I've used WMV, Divx, Xvid, MPG1 and MPG2 and it played almost every single one. The only files it refused were those encoded at anything above 640x480. Using a DVD conversion tool - I was able to convert several movies to 640x480 Divx and/or Xvid at 800 to 1200 kbps and the Zen played them all.
This, however, shows one of the weaknesses of the Zen (and ultimately, the PVP market) - you have to know your way around the computer to get video files onto the unit. This is true of any PVP, including those from Archos, and until the TV and Movie studios get their act together, this process will remain complicated and unruly. So - if you're a novice, you may struggle with getting videos on the unit.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well the unit synced with Media Center 2005. MC2005 gives you many options for syncing content, including TV shows you've recorded. The only downside was the time it took Media Center to convert videos to a watchable format for the Zen. However, this is more a criticism of Media Center than the Zen.
Battery life is adequate, but not spectacular. I was able to play 3 hours of video using the built-in speakers at full volume before I started seeing warning indicators. I suspect battery life would have been better with the brightness (mine is at 60%) turned down and using headphones at a lower volume. For music playback, I quit testing the life after 7 hours - which seems more than adequate.
The menus are intuitive - and not just to a tech geek like myself. Friends who played with the unit, who are nowhere near tech-savy, had no problem navigating the menus. One complaint - the music playback could do a much better job of using the screen. Album covers would have been a nice touch, but are absent. Maybe a firmware update could correct this?
Finally, the hoopla about the viewing angle is somewhat blown out of proportion. Viewing the device from the right IS terrible - the screen goes almost completely black when viewed at an angle from the right. However, from the left, the angle is much more liberal, although still pretty stingy by PVP standards. It seems a fair trade-off for the quality of picture you're getting.
For the record, the LOTR: Return of the King video file looks absolutely stunning on this screen. And with a 3 hour battery life, it seems capable of playing the full flick before dying off.
"bad, bad PMP.."on by Charbax
Pros design, buttons, vga, removable battery
Cons bad video codec support, screen angle of visibillity, proprietary file transfer software, inefficient as removable harddrive
Summary Okay I have to warn you that I am an Archos fan and I do http://archosfans.com
But I have seen for real in action the Archos AV500 and the Creative Vision, and I can say I think the Archos screen to be better. Definately the Archos 480x272 4inch widescreen has much better angle of visibillity and is clearer also in terms of light reflection.
The video codec support of the Creative vision, allthough I haven't been able to test it completely, from what the Creative representant told me, most files will have to be converted to 320x240 WMV before they are transfered with Creative's own proprietary software! The Creative does simply not connect to your computer as a removable harddrive in the way that you would copy in your DivX or D1 resolution WMV and have them play immediately. No, you have to convert all DivX files that are larger than a certain resolution (I think 640x480) and which have larger than 800kbit/s bitrate.
Positive to it, I think, is the effort been made for a nice design, this kindof looks and feels like an iPod for video..
In my book converting a film in 4 hours to some low resolution and low bitrate like 320x240 600kbit/s WMV, is NOT userfriendly way to use a PVP. While this player might be practical when you have alot of Playsforsure video-on-demand content, even Tivo compatibillity nor windows media center pc compatibillity is any usefull as you need to spend long time encoding any video you want to put onto it.
Pros Enables me to carry my TiVo recordings with me.
Cons Poor documentation, Creative should provide instructions on how to use Video Vault.
Summary CNet's review is 100% accurate when it comes to the Zen. This is a great product with unbelievable screen resolution & great sound that you would probably never learn to fully use if you only relied upon the Creative included instructions. I wouldn't have been able to get my TiVo recordings converted and exported onto the Zen without the instruction provide in the review.
Pros Brilliant screen, beautiful design, easy navigation, wealth of features, Tivo2Go compatibility
Cons Doesn't show album art for music, can't record directly with coaxial input
Summary Creative does it again with the ZEN Vision. This absolutely stunning piece of hardware is the best thing to hit the Portable Media Center market yet. The screen has unparalled brightness, and four times the resolution of other PMC's. The design on this PMC is very stylish, unlike some of the other offerings out there. You really have to use the ZEN Vision to believe it. It's that good. I am a proud iPod owner, but let me be the first to tell you, I tested this unit out at a preview event, and this is one PMC that is on the top of my list.
Pros Extensive codec support
Cons No contrast control
Summary I'm one of the relatively few who actually have a Zen Vision because I pre-ordered back in August. The viewing angle for me is a non-issue (it's not that limited and really no big deal). I would have liked it better if it were widescreen and if it had a contrast control. Codec support is excellent and the control interface is excellent. The build quality is excellent too, does not have a plastic feeling at all. It takes high rez Divx and Xvid files just fine and does not automatically down-rez. If you are willing to do the encoding work yourself, as I do, it's an excellent device