Editor's note: A new, less bulky version of the Zen Vision W 60GB will be available soon in the U.S. market. It will reportedly have the same weight and dimensions (5.27 inches by 2.95 inches by .86 inch) and weight (9.73 ounces) as the current 30GB version of the Zen Vision W player. We will update this review as soon as the new player is released, but in the meantime, consider waiting to purchase a new 60GB Zen Vision W.
The Zen Vision W quickly brings Creative up to speed in the blossoming world of portable video. And how could it not, with its splendid 4.3-inch wide-screen display, intuitive control set, removable battery, and CompactFlash slot? Bulkier than the aging Zen Vision, this aggressively-priced 30GB ($299.99) or 60GB ($399.99) portable video player definitely marches to its own beat, forgoing the DVR functionality that makes the Archos 04 series and
The silver and black Zen Vision W makes the Vision look and feel wimpy. At 5.27 by 2.95 by 0.86 inches and 9.7 ounces, the 30GB version is much heftier than its predecessor (4.9 by 2.9 by 0.8 inches and 8.4 ounces). The 60GB W is a tad thicker and heavier. It's substantial in the hand, and while pocketable for sure, it's more of a backpack device. In other words, you don't want to be jogging with this thing, though it's extremely durable, thanks in part to the magnesium skin.
Of course the payoff is the gorgeous 4.3-inch TFT screen, which boasts a resolution of 480x272 pixels with 262K colors. Photos and video pop off the screen, and unlike the Vision's 3.7-inch 4/3 screen, it has an exceptionally wide viewing angle (however, when viewed head on, the Vision's 640x480-pixel screen is impressive). The antireflective screen is vivid and sharp, and you can adjust its brightness and choose any background image you like. Personally, I think the Archos 604's screen edges out the W's, but both are great in my book. I was also impressed with the W's ability to output video and photos to an external display at a maximum of 720x480.
The W's blue backlit controllers, exactly the same as the Vision's, are quite intuitive, and the GUI is classic Creative, simple and to the point with conveniences such as the context-driven options and a customizable main menu. A five-way controller plus Back, context menu, and playback buttons lie to the left of the screen--designed for right-handed use all the way. The buttons are tactile and actually offer resistance. Some users may not like the popping sound and sensation of the buttons.
Below these buttons is a built-in mono speaker--some fidelity with very little oomph. The right spine includes the headphone jack and a rubber cover, which hides the DC input, as well as the A/V-out jack. You'll find a Type II CompactFlash (CF) slot on the right spine. This is handy for many digital camera users, particularly those with Microdrives. In addition to photos, you can import videos via the CF slot (and you get the option to transfer the latest 10, 20, or 50 of the latest files). Transfers are quick and photos look great onscreen. Though you can zoom, create slide shows, and rotate, I prefer the Archos 604 as a photo viewer, though you won't get a CF slot.
A standard mini USB and a dock connection port (no dockable accessories yet) reside on the bottom, while up top, you'll find the power/hold switch, pinhole microphone, and dedicated volume buttons. I love dedicated volume, but I often instinctively use the main up/down controls, which of course don't work (though Creative could implement this if it wanted).
On the back, you'll find the thin and easily removable lithium-ion battery pack--a useful and rare design feature (the Archos 604 also has a removable battery). An integrated kickstand for hands-free viewing would have been useful. The bundled accessories include passable earbuds, a wall-wart power adapter, a USB cable, a software disc (with Creative Media Explorer, Yahoo Music Engine, and other utilities), A/V-out cables, and a felt case.