A Handful of Licks, Picts, and Flicks
Modestly described by Creative as their "most versatile and coolest-looking digital entertainment player ever", the handy 30GB Zen Vision portable multi-media device is an MP3 music player, a digital photo storage bank, and a video playback machine in a (pearl white or black) magnesium case measuring 4.9 x 2.9 x 0.8 inches and weighing 8.4 ounces. As with any portable media player, you'll find the obligatory iPod comparison somewhere, and Creative does not disappoint. The Zen Vision "delivers eight times the image resolution and more than three times the screen size of the Apple iPod Photo*".
Creative says the Zen Vision has "outstanding audio playback quality" with a signal-to-noise ratio of up to 97dB. The 15,000-song capable hard drive can gorge itself on music downloaded from Napster, MSN Music, and Music Now as well as from music subscription services. (Yahoo! Music Unlimited and Napster to Go are specifically mentioned.) An unusual but not unheard of (well, of course you can hear it) feature is a built-in FM tuner with 32 programmable presets. Should you be lucky enough to live in an area with more broadcast diversity than a couple of corporate-owned, pabulum-producing Top 40 radio stations, you might use the Zen Vision's FM recording capability to save broadcasts you'd like to listen to over and over again. (A selection of alternate weather forecasts might be good to have on hand for those times when atmospheric conditions aren't to your liking.)
In addition to storing enough photos to guarantee an "A" on your next "What I Did on My Summer Vacation" class presentation, the Zen Vision has both a 3.7-inch, 640 x 480, 262,144-color "transflective" screen (for "excellent image and video quality even in bright sunlit conditions") and a composite video output for connection to a television. It's not surprising that there's a headphone jack, but the presence of a built-in speaker is unusual. A side-mounted slot supports Compact Flash Type I and Type II media, and Creative offers an optional memory card adapter (said to support 17 variations) that fits in the CF slot.
If still images don't move you, the Zen Vision supports playback of video formats including MPEG-2, MPEG-4 Simple Profile formats such as DivX and Xvid, WMV, and MJPEG. There's also support for TiVoToGo so you can catch up on your TiVo-ed programs. The rechargeable, removable Li-ion battery is rated for 4.5 hours of video playback - so, when you're on that next transatlantic flight, choose wisely from the 120 hours of video that can be stored on the hard drive.
Some of the Zen Vision's additional features include:
And all this technology will only set you back $399.99 - about the same as a good VCR used to cost 10 years ago. (You remember VCRs, don't you? No, I didn't think so…)
"*Based upon independent measurement conducted at Creative Labs, Inc."