Review: Creative Zen Vision:W portable media player
After having spent the last year learning everything about the Sony Playstation Portable (PSP), is there really a better device for watching movies away from your television? To find out, we bought a Creative Labs Zen Vision:W video player and were surprised and pleased to find out that it's a far, far superior portable media player than the PSP in just about every way.
What first attracted me to the Zen Vision:W was the frustration I was having trying to pour a DVD onto my Sony PSP, actually. I've written extensively about PSP video, knew that the process I was using worked, and yet still had problems with the PSP refusing to recognize three of the four movies I'd copied onto the unit. I was fed up, and it was time to get a new device that I could use to watch movies.
I'd already seen some of the Creative devices in action and was impressed with them, but what particularly appealed to me about the Zen Vision W was that it could play both MP4 and AVI format video files. Perfect. I have dozens of AVI movies on my system, and being able to just drop them on a portable device without conversion sounded great.
Even better, the device comes with either a 30GB or 60GB hard drive and a bright 4.3" LCD screen, a screen that's exactly the same size as the one on the Sony PSP. But the PSP, as every owner knows and complains about, it only works with SD memory cards and unless you want to pay lots and lots of money, the max reasonably priced memory card is only 2GB. I don't know about you, but my movies are typically 700-800MB in size, which means that I get two movies on a card and I constantly have to manage all the files.
The Vision W made all of that hassle obsolete and wonderfully so. We got the unit with the 30GB drive and with 20 movies and about 100 photographs copied onto it, there's still plenty of space for additional content. If you haven't juggled files on a small device, you won't understand the existential pleasure of finally gaining some serious disk space, but it's a very good thing. :-)
Oh, and at only $269 for the 30GB device, and $359 for the 60GB unit at Amazon.com, I found the pricing quite reasonable for the capabilities and featureset.
Creative Labs superb Zen Vision:W media player
There are two additional characteristics of the Zen Vision W that are worth highlighting too: it has terrific battery life and it has A/V out, so it's both easy to hook up the player to a TV and quite watchable too. Battery life is actually quite impressive: The first time out of the box, I watched a 2 hour movie on a plane flight, then we hooked up the unit to the TV in a hotel room and watched another 2 hour movie. At the end of this the Vision W showed that its battery had over half a charge remaining. Very impressive!
Being able to hook the Vision W up to a TV was cool too, because the lack of any sort of video out signal on the Sony PSP has long hampered its widespread adoption. But not only did the Vision W easily hook up to a 32" TV with the included cable, it also produced a movie that was really quite comparable in quality to cable TV and definitely quite watchable! In fact, we watched and enjoyed Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow while kicking up our feet at the Consumer Electronics Show, compliments of the Vision W.
BUT WAIT, THERE IS A CAVEAT
To be fair, I did have one huge problem with this unit: it did not interact properly with my Macintosh computer. Creative Labs has zero support for Macs and the software included with the Zen Vision was Windows-only. While an enterprising chap wrote a Mac program called XNJB that let me interact with my Zen Vision, it copied the AVI movies onto the device but the audio on those files didn't work properly.
Once I moved onto the PC and used Creative's file management tool, I was pleased to find that not only did all the AVI and MP4 files work just fine, but it actually scanned them and analyzed their formats before copying them across. Some just copied as is, but others had a necessary conversion applied automatically. The end result? One happy video player and one happy owner.
While I'm talking about things that could be improved, however, let me say that like all personal media players, the Creative Labs Zen Vision W really needs a built-in stand so you can place it on a table and have it angled properly. Instead, I've been using a little stand we received with the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet, but it's not quite right. It'd also be very cool to have a tiny remote that fit into the back of the device too, even one the size of a coin.
Finally, if you can live with the limitations of having to use Creative's PC-only software with the device, I heartily recommend the Zen Vision W widescreen personal media player. At under $275 for a slim device with a gorgeous screen, lots of disk space, video out and great battery life, it's one of the best gadgets on the market today.
It's the perfect use for those Christmas gift certificates and it's darn cool. Go on, take the plunge! Buy yourself a Zen Vision W at Amazon.com and support our efforts here at AskDaveTaylor too. Thanks!
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Reader Comments To Date: 47
If you want to enjoy digital media without being one of the other White Headphone People - J&R Express @ Macy's carries the Creative MuVo and Zen Sleek Photo plus the Nano. Nothing better for MP3, WMA, PlaysForSure and FM Radio.
I am a photographer working mainly for development agencies in Bangladesh,Sri Lanka and Africa. I have just bought a Creative Zen W to store my images safely while working in the field.I am really happy with the device because it has huge capacity and really fantastic to view the images. My only problem is that I use a Mac and Zen is only supported by Windows. The program you mention
(XNJB) sounds interesting.Will it support my images and music library? I would really appreciate your help.
Thank you so much.
Zul, yes, the XNJB program will work with photographs -- in fact, that's how I dumped a few hundred of my favorite photos onto the unit from my Mac. It's just movies that it seems to have a hard time with (disappointingly, Creative needs a Mac app available!) Do you have a site? I'd love to see your work... You can see my photographic efforts at http://www.ColoradoPortraits.com/
I am looking to buy an mp3 video player for my trip to Europe backpacking w/2 friends. I am trying to decide between the creative zen vision w or the creative zen vision m. The deciding factor is the comfort level of having a smaller player vs. the wide screen/speaker. Is the w uncomfortable or much more noticeable than something the size of a traditional video mp3 player? Your advice would be greatly appreciated.
How do I download a free software of music onto my Creative Zen Vision:M?
What is the fastest and easiest way to convert DVD to import to Creative Zen W? I have the 60 GB and I ordered Pocket DVD Wizard. I can't imagine that it should take that long to rip a DVD. Please help!
Lolita, I have had excellent luck with Slysoft's Clone DVD Mobile and AnyDVD as a pair. It lets me pour a copy of any DVD I own onto my Zen Vision W device and watch it later, no hassles. You can learn more about how to use this by reading my tutorial on how to use the program for a Sony PSP:
The only difference is that when you're picking out the target device, select "Creative Labs" and "Vision W" on that first screen. Easy!
How Can I Copy Media Files From PC to Portable Media Player
Why does my Zen Vision W play certain file types with no problem, but others it needs to convert? It's so annoying to have to wait 3 hours for it to convert a divx quality movie when it says one of the file types it can play is divx.
Dave, I am trying to figure out which product is better. The Archos 504/604 or the Creative Zen W. Ive had an Archos 504 and returned it do the the hard drive failing. Left me with a blue screen that just went blank and never came back. Unfortunetely I paid to download the codecs to test the unit with my movies and after 24 hours the unti just died. Now Im in the market to purchase another but I dont want to get burned again. Whats your opinion.
Matthew, I've wondered that myself. I can only figure that it's something to do with the codec required by the video and/or some particular characteristic (image size?) therein.
Bill, I have to say that I really liked the Archos unit when I had it, particularly its ability to record video and work like a fully functional DVR. Since getting the Zen Vision:W, however, I haven't looked back one bit. The Zen device is splendid and I know I've sold at least a half-dozen to friends after showing them what it can do. Just this evening I was watching a video on my TV, being fed from the Vision device.
The only thing missing? A remote control! :-)
Dave, I have seen the Zen:W in action and it looks great. I am hesistant to buy because I use a Mac Book Pro. Would Parallels allow me to run windows XP along with the Creative software while sharing movies and songs between the two operating systems?
I just bought a ZVW and so far I am impressed. I do have one question though. I happen to have music and videos on two computers and I was wondering whether the device allows you to get the music off both computers (my old ipod didn't!) or only off the one you first installed the software onto.
I would appreciate your help.
I haven't tested, but it seems to me that they way that the Creative Zen software works you can definitely use your Zen Vision on more than one computer at a time. I want to test having that software running in Parallels on a Mac, so when I do, I'll be able to ascertain this for sure, and I'll write about it here on my site. Stay tuned!
Hey, with my tv card i record dvd's and videos and try to record on a higher bitrate but zen w wont accept anything greater than 2 bitrate. Not even using the 'convert'
In regard to recording dvd and video content, it has limitations in terms of bitrate, output, etc.
Or maybe i need a better tv card. What u think bro.
Honestly, I don't know much about the bitrate issue. The Vision:W can't record anything, so issues of its limitation as a recording device seem irrelevant.
Matthew, the reason the Vision W has to convert some files even if the format of those files is supposed to be supported is because the Zen Vision W cannot handle video in resolutions higher than a certain amount (I think it may be something like XXX by 272?)
So if you have a 640x480 Mpeg4 or DivX video file, it'll need to be converted to something of a lower resolution to view it. Whereas if you have a 320x240 resolution Mpeg4 or DivX file, it'll have no problem playing it without converting.
I have a creative zen vision m, and am about to buy the w, and you CAN tak emusic and vidoes and pictures from all different sorts of computers and sources, so im pretty sure the W will be exactly the same, or so i hope.
With the compact flash(and adapter) on the Zen Vision W, will I be able to load up music on memory cards and put them in the player to play without having the player at the computer during download? I know I can with pictures but not sure about music.(sending the player to a friend in jail and need to be able to send music at later times without the player leaving)
actually i have a question similar to Zul above. I am considering buying this player as a way to backup/offload my camera images while out in the field. however, i am wondering if the zen will let you copy over camera RAW files to the internal hard drive or not? (.CR2 etc. files) (i primarily shoot in RAW so if i can't copy them over, there's not use in getting this product for me)
I assume it won't display them on the screen (that's okay with me), but i wonder if it will actually let you copy them off the CF card in teh first place? this would be the issue that would make or break my decision to buy this.
any light you can shed on this would be deeply appreciated.
I just saw your post, and decided to find out the answer to your question myself. And the answer is YES. I have a canon powershot pro1 and I had never shot in "raw" mode. I thought this would be a good experiment. After snapping a couple shots in raw mode I inserted the CF card into my Zen W 60GB..then I selected "compact flash".. "copy from compact flash"... and the files were copied to the Zen.
Then, using creative media explorer (software comes with the zen).. I click "browse media" and looked in "data"..."imported files"...and there were my *.crw files. I find that creative media explorer is the easiest way to manage my Zen because it is very similar to "windows explorer". However, as you can imagine, I was not able to view the pics on the Zen. Hope this helps your decision.
Just got my new Zen W, and I didn’t find the CD installation with it. I’m missing the media explorer, can any one tell me where to find it on the net.?
bear in mind that creative doesn’t publish it on the site of the Zen and I cant return back to the shop as I bought it from Overseas?
Thanks in advance
Thanks DAve , but I have already tried so many tmes on this site.
All I found (And other people too) is the Creative Media Explorer Update for Creative ZEN Vision W , it is not the original file, only update- that`s why I cant transfer anything vedio to the Zen
\can you give me assistance ?
Why is it that when I play a movie on my zen w it freezes up at the last 10 mins of the movie. Any file over 1 gb. Less than that plays OK.
I'v had the vision w for about a week now and have put many videos on it. However, the player keeps converting my movies to resolution 320 by 240 and i havnt yet got one which is the maximum resolution of the screen! This means i constantly have to stretch the movie and this reduces the quality! Just wondering is it possible to have 480 by 272 resolution movies on it?
Dave, I've been having my Zen W for about 8 months now and really love it. I was looking for a player with the most features bundled in one package, (widescreen video, FM Radio, MP4, exp. slot, etc) and found it in the Zen W....My only complaint so far is that I haven't found many small docking stations for it and it is a little bulky as a portable device...not really pocket sized. If it came down to it though, I would buy this again over an I-Pod any day. The video quality is very good with brilliant colors and fluid motion. Paired with Sennheiser CX300 headphones the unit sounds fantastic. I also really like that when I plug it into my PC it recognizes it as a hard drive so I can drag-and-drop files to and from the unit.
I do have one question though. Has anyone figured out a way to plug the device into a pc for charging purposes and still be able to listen to music from the device instead of through the PC?
Great post, thanks for your review...
is there a way that i can put my tv shows (that i have on DVD) on my Zen for free. i should mention that my computer IS a Windows
i was considerinng buying the Creative Labs 60GB Zen and i wanted to know if it supports wma files because i have tons of music on my windows media player library and dont want to try to convert them thank you
Fantastic article and advice - thanks!
A couple of questions. I'm in the market and am looking for a great portable video player with FM radio - but I'd also like to get one large enough to backup files from my PC (not just media).
How is file management on the Zen? Is it only through the proprietary software - or can you partition the drive and use it directly from within Windows?
Just bought a zen vision w from amazon
great bit of kit, but as yet not been able to work out how to load movies, can't wait to see the quality.
dammit, i love my player but creatives support sucks on thier website, i mean the rma support is excellent.. they actually sent me back a player that was worth 200 dollars more than the one i ent back to them.. it works bu t they have no software available on the site.!!
I have had my zen w since they arrived back in august or sept 06 i think........... so far its been through some hell...considering...and the screen is every bit clear and clear still. I use psp screen protectors..a leather case off amazon, and for video...oh the video...
I usually use dvd decrypter...hen turn the ifo over to a avi (mpeg4)file, makes it really clear, and I dont mind the room as I have a 1.8 inch toshiba 100gb hd ready to install if im out of room.
So far we have figured out you can uprade the hell out of the zen. 1.8 inch drives are pricey, but what they use in the ipods....you can stick in the zen...just about all of them.
Thats the main reason I purchased Zen. I can easily work on it, instead of the apple store line...plus the satisfaction that my screen is as big as a ipod classic face
I love the fact of its built in speaker, its actually quite loud
If hooked to my 2200 lumen dell projector...looks great, and on the 1080p sony in non hd still clean picture, not quite hd, but is good still
The battery is the only thing i can say is nuisance
1 year to the day i had to replace the battery at 45 bucks....grr..and no, the zen regular battery will not work.
a friend who has a iphone was notcing the gui of the zen is quite easy to learn except that menu button under back
I may stick my head out and get a zen slim for light wieghtness
Stupid question, i guess but how do I get my Zen to use/recognise a fresh/new SD card?
I assmed that the new card was to be inserted and it would work. It hasn't so far.
I'm a techno' dinasaur, so i'd appreciate any help/advice, in simple terms.
Same as Neil: how do I get my Zen to use/recognise a fresh/new SD card?
how do I get my Zen to use/recognise a fresh/new SD card? It thinks that device is out of space.
I have a new creative zen 8gb, a new card is kingston sdhs 2 class 8 gb.
Dave, My question is on the wireless remote control for the Creative Zen Vision W media player. I've been searching everywhere for this remote but unfortunatly the remote is out of stock. As an alternative, can a Zen Vision W remote control be replaced with a universal learning remote control? Is it possible to program the learning remote control without having the original Zen wireless remote?
I have the zen w and i'm having trouble loading videos into the player. The conversion does not convert the videos into a format that the zen accepts. It keeps telling me that it was unable to covert. Is there a free software download that i can get on line that will convet the videos to the proper format for the zen w. Thanks any responce will be grateful
Just wondering if the unit supports dual display? ie can one of my kids hold the unit and watch a movie while the other holds another small lcd screen? or does it output via av and disable the internal screen?
Hi, i am an owner of a creative zen vision w. I lost my laptop with my cd installer on it and i am just wondering if there is a site where i can download the installer. Or perhaps you can share me your installer instead, hehehe.
Thanks a heap
I am also an owner of the Zen Vision W and love it.
But, I have a very unusual problem. I can create folders to put my videos in, but I then can't move the actual video files into them on my PC. This is a problem because I'm looking at putting a lot of movies onto my zen.
Look foward to a reply,
I have a creative zen, is it possible to get a recording from my zen onto my pc to email to a friend? Thank you, I hope you can help me.
how do you get the original file structure back.Like The Original Store Bought New Condition.Also,How Do You Solve The Album Art Delima That The Creative Zen Has? And How To Get The SD Card To Work As Extended Memory.Like The Sansa View No Problem With The Album Art At All.Had One The SD Card Shows Up As A Separate Drive And Works Like One Too.It Loads It's Contents To The Sansa View's Main File Structure It Works Together As One.
"Any Ideas Or Solutions"
I have lost the install CD of my creative zen w,now i cant transfer movies to my zen w, can i download it and what is the website? thanks
I have a creative zen and i have a few recordings of myself that i want to send to my friends. It is in the wav file but windows movie maker couldn't read it (because i kinda want to make it into a movie). So i was wondering how i can change it or make it work. THank you!
can i get creative zen LCD?
I do have a lot to say, and questions of my own for that matter, but first I'd like to say thank you, Dave, for all your helpful information by
buying you a cup of coffee!||
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