"Amazing Screen, Great codec support - Apple best watchout"4.5 starson by TheWalkerman
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.