So, you can read photos from a CompactFlash card -- useful for SLR camera owners, but it's not a well-supported format in other areas. To be honest, we'd have rather seen a USB host feature that would let you transfer photos from any camera. Thankfully though, the Zen Vision does have a couple of plus points over its Archos rival. First of all, it has an FM radio, which is a real necessity thanks to the limited 30GB storage. Secondly, there's an Organiser, with Calendar, Tasks and Contacts. As you'd imagine from a device with no keyboard, you're better off creating these on your computer and then updating the portable device with the Creative Zen Sync Manager. There's also a microphone for making voice memos -- an overlooked but useful feature, particularly for business users.
In operation, the Zen Vision feels like a really sleek player to use, from the automated transferring of files in Windows Media Player to zipping around in the menus. We did manage to crash the device once though, when we were playing music and watching photos simultaneously. The player offers full support for DivX and Xvid video formats, which are the two most popular encoders online. Unfortunately though, Creative doesn't include an encoder in its software package, so you'll need to read up online about free packages, or invest in the DivX Encoder at cost from the Web site. Even then, be prepared for some technical headaches when ripping your DVD movies, thanks to the copyright issues involved.
Archos had to up its game in response to the Creative Zen Vision, creating a far better screen on the AV500 than we'd seen on its previous players. Creative's player is very detailed, colourful and features virtually no blurring on movement. But the glass itself has been given a coating that gives the image a strange, off-putting reflectivity, which consequently makes black areas of the screen look completely unnatural.
The system's one speaker is tinny and lacks power, but we suspect you'll use the included headphones. Stereo performance is good, technology that has undoubtedly been carried over from Creative's excellent sounding MP3 players. For music, we'd say that the bass level on the new iPod is slightly better, but if you're watching a movie on the train, this is certainly as good as the Archos AV500.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield