Hands on with Zen Vision M

(continued from previous page)But the best is yet to come – the Zen is compatible with the BBC’s iMP software, which is currently being trialled throu

(continued from previous page)

But the best is yet to come – the Zen is compatible with the BBC’s iMP software, which is currently being trialled throughout the UK.

The iMP allows TV licence payers (that means Brits only) to download - for free - any of the previous week’s BBC content to watch on their PC. Or, it turns out, their Creative Zen Vision M.

The trial version downsamples the mobile video so it takes up about 1.5MB of disk space per minute of video, which has the unfortunate side-effect of making it look jerky – but that should be sorted out before the iMP goes public next year (we hope).

By the time the BBC’s download service is live, it may also support the iPod video. For now, the Zen Vision M definitely out-muscles the iPod in terms of video playback. And it’s also compatible with music rental services such as Napster To Go.

So what’s wrong with it? Well, there’s the thickness, although it has to be said the build quality feels excellent. Then there’s the shocking lack of a 60GB version (video is very memory hungry). And no support for the world’s most popular music and video download service, the iTunes Music Store (though there's not much Creative can do about that).

Finally, there’s the me-too aspect of the player. Yes, it’s been in development for months and yes, it’s available in pink, green and blue as well as black and white - but the fact is that it looks like an iPod video, and has very similar features. It’s no great leap forward.

Perhaps that doesn’t matter – after all, Creative invented the hard-drive MP3 jukebox only to see Apple steal the market from them.

The Zen Vision should be available by 16th December for $349 in the US and “between £200 and £250” in the UK. So is it worth emailing Santa to change your Xmas list? Maybe.

Basically, if you want to use Napster, or you’re keen on the video functionality, or you happen to love FM radio or the sound of your own voice, then go Creative. If, on the other hand, you’re worried about style, thickness and capacity… the iPod video is available now.

We'll have a full review in the next few days.

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