I’ve had an iPod for a while, and I love it. It’s a 60 gigabyte, video-capable rock star that’s served me well, and honestly, I’ve had no complaints.
You can’t go on a run with a standard iPod, though, because you don’t want the hard drive to break down from the shocks. Since I just took up jogging again, I decided to stop by the store and pick up an iPod shuffle; just something to get me through the morning run. While I was in the store, though, I noticed that Creative (a company I’m fairly fond of) had their one gigabyte Zen V player at only ten dollars more than the shuffleï¿½â’¬”plus, it had a screen and supported pictures. I decided to give it a try, and bought the player and took it home.
The player isn’t as small as the shuffle, though it is around iPod nano-sized. The screen looks good and the controls are decent (though the little navigational nub can be a little bit frustrating). It displays pictures very well and the user interface of the device itself is very simple and easy to figure out.
The sound is adequate and the EQ offers a lot of options; the headphones included with the player aren’t the absolute best you can by and aren’t quite up to the quality of the iPod’s earbuds, but they’re very close and fine for most users.
The software for the Zen V is similarly straightforward, and assumes the interface of Microsoft’s Explorer. This means you just drag and drop songs, which all Windows users should be familiar with. The onboard calendar and scheduler can be easily edited from a standard Windows-style menu, which is a big advantage over the iPod’s system (to edit calendar events on an iPod, you’ve got to get separate software or use Microsoft Outlook, which is impractical for home users on the go).
If you want a more interactive experience, you can use the Zen V with all of the major digital audio programs such as Napster and Rhapsody (my personal favorite). The Zen V supports subscription downloading, which is a big plus; fifteen bucks a month can get you all the music the little player will hold. That’s something that the iPod doesn’t offer.
The Zen V also supports line in recording and has a tiny microphone for voice notes. I found this feature really useful and the recording quality pretty good; I set up my player to record segments of the Howard Stern show before I go on a morning run, which is pretty cool. The record function features a little graphic EQ that lets you know when an input source is getting too loud and the Zen V’s package includes a line-in cord for easy recording.
The Zen V doesn’t display album art, which is a little distressing, and it doesn’t quite have the sleek feel of an iPod nano; the font of the text on screen looks blocky, though it gives you plenty of options to customize your Zen by changing the background and text color. These are minor problems, though; it’s a $90 player that gives a lot of features that the pricier iPod nano doesn’t, and is a great choice for anyone who wants to step outside the iPod crowd.