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Creative Zen Vision W review: Creative Zen Vision W

The removable battery is a great design feature, especially for travelers.

The Creative Zen Vision W with its bundled accessories (minus the CD and manuals).

The W can handle MP3, WAV, and WMA (including subscription music) audio files. This time around, the Vision supports album art, albeit as tiny thumbnails. The W is decent as an MP3 player and holds it own in sound quality, and it includes handy features such as playlist creation and the Creative DJ (that is, Album of the Day and Rarely Heard). However, you should justify the unit's size and weight by using it for video.

The Zen Vision W supports a large number of video formats, including WMV, MPEG-4 SP, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, DivX 4/5, and XviD. In most cases, Windows Media Player will do the converting for you, if necessary, though the bundled Creative Media Explorer will do the job (as well as help you create slide shows). Here's a bonus: the device is compatible with TiVo To Go, which means you have your TiVo content in the palm of your hand, but only after some slow TiVo-to-PC transfers and conversions. Also, new WMV video stores such as Amazon's Unbox can feed the Vision W with content. Our experience transferring and viewing Unbox movies and TV shows was nice and smooth. The device and store seem made for each other, though you won't get the all-inclusive feeling you get with iTunes, since you need to use the Unbox software to transfer content to portables.

The handy bookmarking feature allows you to mark an exact point in a song for up to 10 bookmarks. Videos get bookmarked automatically when you exit the video. You'll also get a decent FM radio with up to 32 autoscannable and namable presets, but no radio recording. Reception is good. The Microphone feature is decent sounding (16kHz mono ADPCMWAV). I like that you get a visual volume level meter. Finally, the Vision W continues the Zen support for read-only Outlook syncing, and the MTP device can be used as a hard drive on Windows and Mac machines, though you need to first partition the drive within the menu.

Battery life is rated for 13 hours for audio (mediocre) and 4.5 for video (decent). CNET Labs was able to muster nearly 17 hours of MP3 audio on a single charge; video fared well, too, with a solid 7.6 hours of playback per charge. You can recharge via USB, but it will take twice as long (6 hours vs. 3 hours) to fully recharge. Our sister site in Asia posts battery results in its review.

Overall processor performance is above average (start-up is quick), though you'll hit occasional one-second delays, especially when scrubbing through video tracks. The Archos 604 feels more precise with video scrubbing. The way a new screen slides into view when navigating on the W seems sluggish to me.

Sound quality is very good (though not as good as the Creative Zen Vision M's) and the numerous preset (and five-band custom) EQs are effective (as is Bass Boost). I just don't like having to navigate to audio settings to apply EQs; this should have been included in the context menu.

Overall, I think the Zen Vision W is well suited for those who already have large collections of videos (and those who use TiVo To Go) and for those who take lots of photos. It's a bulky beast, but an impressive display, good video format support, a sweet price, and nice sound quality make the W a solid playback-only choice.

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