Creative Labs Zen V Plus (1GB)
- Wide range of functions, FM radio works well, good audio quality
- Hard to navigate, pixilation on screen, poor headphones
While the Zen V Plus isn't a ground breaking device, it performs quite well without any major problems.
Price$ 189.95 (AUD)
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In a market bombarded with sub-standard 1GB multimedia players, Creative has put some time and effort into their latest version in the Zen series, the Zen V Plus. Available in sizes up to 8GB, the Zen V Plus is a funky little multimedia player which performs well, but is hampered by a slightly pixelated OLED screen and a frustrating control stick.
When it comes to functionality, this product doesn't have any features that make it stand out from the competition. The Zen V Plus supports audio, video and image playback as well as FM radio and a voice recorder.
We tested the audio playback and found it quite good with few problems to report, although the quality of the provided headphones was average. The cloth covered ear bud design doesn't promote comfort and the sound quality was as we expected from outward appearances. The bass was below par and treble struggled to hit the high points in our music. The mid-tones were good, though there was a little loss of instrument separation in the track. When we switched to our own headphones, it became apparent that the poor sound quality was localised to the headphones and not indicative of the player itself. The Zen V Plus supports playback of MP3, WMA, IMA ADPCM and WMA DRM audio formats.
Video playback was good, for what it is. Naturally, we don't expect a device with a 1.5in screen to compete with the larger screen devices on the market. However, we do have to question the validity of having a video feature in such a small device to begin with. The OLED screen showed a few minor pixilation problems and the overall picture quality, while good, could have been improved. In order to transfer video files to the device, software has been included with the retail package which allows users to transcode video (change formats) into the proprietary format of the player.
The Zen supports image playback in JPEG format and has an FM radio function with space for up to 32 preset stations. There is also a built in voice recorder mode and basic calendar and organiser functions. The FM radio works surprisingly well, with reasonable sound quality but the voice recorder mode was fairly average. The built-in microphone was easily able to pick up voice clearly for up to 50cm, but became muffled the further away the source was. This makes it ideal for dictating notes, but not great as a voice recorder for meetings, classes or interviews.
The design of the Zen is compact, with rounded edges and a two tone colour scheme. The colours for our review unit were black and orange, but the 1GB version is also available in white with orange trim. There are other colour schemes as well but they are specific to the size of the hard drive. The 2GB model comes in black or white with green trim or pink with white trim, while the 4GB version is black with blue trim. There is an 8GB model available in the United States but no announcements have been made with respect to its availability in this country.
Inset into the front of the device is a navigation control stick. We found it very frustrating as it was too recessed and was uncomfortable to use. If you have small hands, you will most likely not run into the same problems, but we found it a little too unresponsive and difficult to manipulate. If the stick had been a little longer and a little above the front facade, it would have made a world of difference to the overall user experience.
The Zen V Plus has a rechargeable Li-Ion Polymer battery which is charged via USB. Creative reports the battery life as 15 hours of continuous playback which we found to be fairly accurate.
While the Zen V Plus isn't a ground breaking device, it performed quite well without any major problems. The only real issues we encountered were the with the control stick navigation and the slight pixilation on the screen. Overall the Zen V Plus is a good competitor in the 1GB capacity MP3 player market.
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