We’ve seen Lilliputian MP3 players before, but Creative has taken the concept a step further with the Zen V Plus: This change-purse-size device boasts a vivid 1.5-inch OLED screen for viewing photos and videos.
Besides its dimensions, we think this device’s most interesting feature is its user interface: Creative has finally come up with something that’s as simple as the one on Apple’s iPod. The company dumped the twitchy touchpad used in its larger devices in favor of a tiny joystick. You navigate the user interface by pushing the joystick up and down to scroll, and left and right to drill into nested items. Clicking down on the joystick selects the chosen menu item. To back out of any menu or activity, you simply squeeze the button with an arrow pointing left. The remaining button on the face toggles between play and pause.
If we didn’t know better, we’d swear the video screens on the iPod and on Creative’s Zen Vision: M develop scratches from dust mites crawling across their surfaces, so we assumed a video device designed to fit in your pants pocket would have the same lifespan as one of those microscopic bugs. To our surprise, the Zen V Plus has yet to develop a single scar, despite being jamming into our jeans alongside car keys and spare change several times a day for three weeks straight. Creative coats the entire device with an extremely tough polymer that seems impervious to scratches.
Photos looks pretty good on the OLED, but video frame rates are slow and jerky; we definitely wouldn’t want to watch a movie on such a tiny screen. Audio quality was inferior to that of fullsize players, but not bad. And Creative’s Zen Media Explorer software renders the device quite useful for transporting and synchronizing media files, documents, and Outlook data (contact database, calendar, task lists, and so on) between PCs. We’d never rely on this device as our sole media player, but we’re finding that the more we use it, the more we like it.
Month Reviewed: October 2006