Creative Zen Stone Plus review: Creative Zen Stone Plus

Typical Price: £49.00
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars 1 user review

The Good Size; screen; simplicity; FM radio; voice recorder; sound quality; drag-and-drop file management; price.

The Bad Battery life; transfer times.

The Bottom Line A terrific player for a terrific price. While not as stylish as similar players, the Zen Stone Plus is offered at a bargain price and comes packed with more features than anyone would expect a player of this size to have

7.5 Overall

Creative has launched the Zen Stone Plus a mere month after its little brother, the Zen Stone. The Plus comes with everything the lovely original model did, plus a screen, twice the storage capacity, an FM radio, a voice recorder and even a stopwatch. At just £49, there's huge potential here. iPod Shuffle, you might want to consider buying that suitcase.

Update: Read our review of the new Creative Zen Stone Plus with Speaker

Design
The Zen Stone Plus looks just like its younger sibling and at 21g, weighs only 2g more. It's as curvaceous and cute as a glossy little pebble, and fits into lots of handy accessories -- a keyring case and an armband are sold separately.

The main controls are on the front of the player, but unlike the original Stone, the play/pause button is now stuck on the top. This also functions as a power button. It frequently doesn't like to respond, but once it's on, at least it stays on.

The cute little 64x64-pixel OLED screen sits on the left. It's a simple blue-on-black display and does everything a display of this size should do. This is the perfect way to implement a graphic display into something this small, and the icons are just large enough to be useful.

Features
As was expected, the glossy new player supports MP3 and WMA files, along with Audible downloads and copy-protected content. There's no support for subscription services such as Napster, but any music you buy-to-own from such stores will play fine. Track titles appear underneath a time counter as songs are played and albums can be browsed through using their folder and file names. You can also choose to have your library shuffled, as with the original Stone, but being able to navigate albums is a huge bonus.

We were pleased to see voice recording in this edition of the Zen line. You can record up to 10 hours of voice on a single recording and each are saved with their own file names as a recording finishes. Recorded files can be browsed through using the built-in navigation, or they can be dragged on to a PC through Windows Explorer.

In addition to a voice recorder, an FM radio has been thrown into the mix. This, combined with a wrist strap and the Stone's light weight, will make joggers' jogging sessions joyous indeed.

Performance
Creative is renowned for its superior sound quality. It comes as no surprise, then, that the £49 Zen Stone Plus sounds as good as the £250 Apple iPod, providing you use some decent headphones.

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