You’ve got to feel for Creative. It got MP3 jukeboxes to a stage where the public just started to show a major interest – then the Apple iPod entered and stole its limelight (not to mention the vast bulk of the portables market).

However, Creative refuses to slink off into the shadows, continuing to develop its impressive repertoire and provide the strongest Apple-alternative for PC users (it’s obstinately Mac-phobic).
It’s fast into new markets, too – this is Creative’s third Zen Vision multimedia portable, the first two being larger-format devices. And sadly the Zen Vision is no longer available.Has that expertise distilled down to this smaller form factor?
We’ll get to that later, but first the features. The Zen Vision:M comes in blue, pink and green, as well as the obligatory black and white.
It has a 2.5in screen, a decent battery life (four hours with video, 14 with music), and an FM radio and voice recorder. Its bundled power adapter includes both Australian and two-pin European plugs – handy for hols.
The Creative’s flexibility extends to its supported formats. It might be PC-only, but this portable makes the most of just about every music and video format available – and syncs particularly well with Windows Media files (including Media Center TV recordings).

Improved usability is a bonus

Getting the Zen going isn’t as easy as the iPod experience – Creative’s MediaSource and Media Explorer software isn’t as intuitive, and the double power/transfer plug is clumsy. Using Windows Media Player for the transfer of files is our preferred option.
However, Creative has done a lot to address other usability issues – while no Apple click-wheel, its new on-player controls are logical and clear.
Clear is also one of the many positive ways to describe the Zen Vision:M’s 2.5in screen – along with sharp, colourful and highly watchable. It seems bigger than its size, and is less reflective than most.
Video soundtracks and music are delivered with power and poise, though the iPod remains a tad more musical.
Creative’s persistence has paid off – when it comes to pocketable multimedia portables, this is the one we’d buy.

Creative Zen Vision:M | $469.95 |
Exceptional video performance and functionality; great with music, too 
Against: Controls can take some time to master; PC only
Verdict: Creative’s strong video and MP3 credentials are used to full effect in this class-leading multimedia portable. An ideal TV-anywhere companion to a Media Center PC

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