Bye-Bye iPod, Hello Zen

Very recently I posted about my iPod failing yet again.  Typically within 24 hours of making that post it started working but within another 2 weeks it was finished.  After taking it to the Apple shop in the Bullring it was revived, but was also told that the problem was terminal and that I should probably get a new one as the warrenty had ran out.  Handing in my old iPod would get me a 10% discount.

But considering that my iPod Photo (40GB) retailed at £359, I’m far from impressed that someone with an iPod mini could get the same discount (admittedly I paid much less for it on eBay).  And I really need the space; less than 40GB isn’t a viable option as I can’t get all of my music on a 30GB player (something yells me that Apple realised this and would hope that someone like myself would opt for the 80Gb version).  But as mp3 player prices are falling quickly, I now own the player I’ve wanted for 18 months: the Creative Zen Vision: M.

Even better, Amazon had it for £155, which for a 60GB mp3 player is a steal.  Even better, it’s the slim version of the 60GB model, so all the accessories designed for the 30GB version will work.  And considering that Amazon want £159 for the 30GB iPod… it was a simple decision.  Having said that why the 30GB Zen isn’t less I don’t know, but it’s listed on Amazon at over £250 which is insane, considering that the model I own with double the capacity is less…

First impressions?  Well it’s better in some areas, worse in others.  I now have 5 additional applications, just a few more than the iPod requires (iTunes and the iPod updater).  I now have separate applications for video conversion, podcasts, Creative Zen Media Explorer and  a removable disk manager.

The sync manager simply compares the contents of various media folders (music, video, pictures) with the folders on my Zen and shows the difference; it will then duplicate the files on my Zen if I wish.  iTunes does exactly this.

Zencast organiser is just a podcast programme; while I can link and RSS podcast feed to it (unlike iTunes, where you can only download podcasts listed on the site), it’s still an extra application

I’ve yet to fully try the application suite provided by Creative but it’s obvious that Apple’s software is better.  The Media Explorer is a nice touch, appearing in My Computer and being a decent interface to manage the files on my Zen manually.  But in the context of software Apple win hands down; it’s far easier to use iTunes and have everything run in the same application… my only problem with it has been memory usage, something Apple really need to sort out; it shouldn’t need 75+MG of memory to play mp3’s, especially when Windows Media Player (WMP) uses less than 20.

Talking of WMP, the Zen does have an advantage in that the supplied software isn’t essential as it syncs directly with WMP; so you don’t need to install the Creative software suite.  But so far as I can tell, it’s not possible to manage pictures using it.

So to the player; and here the iPod is seriously challenged.  The Zen is far more flexible and more colourful; rather than having to stick with the white background and blue highlights, the Zen offers 6 themes, along with the option to choose any picture as a background.  Playlists can be named on-the-fly, tracks can be deleted/moved/renamed; things that the iPod can’t do unless connected to iTunes.  It has a custom EQ setting, something the iPod doesn’t (although it has more presets).  And the basic operation is just as good as the iPod.

It’s not without faults though; the scroll bar isn’t as easy to use as the iPod clickwheel.  There are minor niggles with song selection, whereby you have to be more precise with the menus chosen (unlike the iPod, you can’t, for example, choose the genre menu and list all the tracks within that genre; specific artists and albums have to be chosen).

And the equal?  Both require propriaty cables and have their own “dock connector.”  In Apple’s case, it means decent sales on accessories.  The Zen is slightly better, in that the small supplied sync adaptor takes the DC power cable, AV composite and standard mini-USB cables.  But why couldn’t Creative have these ports built into the player itself?  I wouldn’t have a problem with the player if it was a big bigger and had these ports built-in.

But it does have a built in FM radio, which for me is an essential; buying a wired remote remains te only option for the iPod.

The really big problem I havce wit Apple is the introduction of the video iPod;  because Apple removed the power connector next to the headphone socket; several of the accessories I bought won’t work with a new iPod; no doubt I’ll be selling them on eBay soon enoungh! 

So what if you want an mp3 player?  I do think the Zen is the better player, it certainly can be manipulated more easily than the iPod and is far more customisable (i.e. in the interface rather than in skins, cases etc.).  But it’s not an option for anyone not using Windows and it does take some getting used to.  The iPod is, in my opinion, more intuitive and took me less than 5 mintes to have the entire menu system sussed; I’m still not there with the Zen after 24 hours.  The software is also far easier to understand and it’s ideal for anyone who isn’t confident with gadgets.  But if you like to make your mp3 player more unique, don’t mind hardware that requires a bit of time to understand and are happy with being able to choose any music download service (except iTunes), the Zen is definitely the better option.

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~ by Ian on Tuesday 14th August 2007.

One Response to “Bye-Bye iPod, Hello Zen”

  1. You can sync pictures with WMP (11) just drag them into the sync list. I’ve tried the bundled software and you really don’t need it if you’ve got WMP 11. I’ve had mine for about 2 weeks now and think it has the edge on the ipod except for looks, great bit of kit.
    Ditch the audible software subscription too expensive, there are plenty of free audio books out there.
    Download of video is great and no waiting ages for video convert plays divX and Xvid without any bother.

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