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Creative ZEN V PLUS (1GB)
Portable Audio/Video Players | First Looks
Sun 25 Jun 2006

Mini Media Monster


A record button as well as dedicated volume controls can come in handy.

The shallow joystick makes navigating a chore.

The orientation of the video screen can be adjusted to your preference.

At the launch of the ZEN V PLUS, Sim Wong Hoo, CEO of Creative as well as Craig McHugh, President of Creative Labs Inc. personally oversaw the event and clearly emphasized how physically small, tough and scratch-resistant their new MP3 player was. Both Sim Wong Hoo and Craig McHugh even went where no iPod user would dare go and gleefully pummeled their tiny ZEN V PLUS against the closest wall to make their point in our exclusive video.

The Package

The construct of the ZEN V PLUS is entirely of scratch-resistant plastic and comes in a choice of black or white with orange or green splashes. While the plastic exterior helps make the ZEN V PLUS tougher and lighter, it also gives it a somewhat toy-like feel. Measuring 43.2 x 67.5 x 15.9mm and weighing only 43 grams, the ZEN V PLUS is easily lost in your pocket. Below its 1.5-inch OLED screen lie two simple backlit buttons and a 5-way joystick for navigating menus. Along the side are volume controls, a power button, 3.5mm audio-out jack, 2.5mm audio-in jack, USB 2.0 port as well as a handy record button. Also, within the ZEN V PLUS package was a decent pair of earphones, a neck-strap, installation CD, oversized velvet wallet as well as a 3.5mm to 2.5mm audio jack converter. Creative has always paid attention to minor details and the converter included empowers users to record from other audio devices such as microphones with 3.5mm jacks.

On Close-up

The 1.5-inch OLED display that can be rotated to suit your orientation doesn't disappoint with vibrant video playback that remains rich even at extreme angles. Even though we will not recommend watching full length movies on the tiny screen, we leave absolutely no doubt of its potential considering the tremendous creativity some people have shown with their camera-phones as of late.

When tested, music playback was decent and hardly lacking in any area while battery life really depends on whether you are listening to music or watching videos. While video playback can be quite a strain on the battery, simple music playback will last you for a handful of long tips – 15 hour in total.

The software that is included with the ZEN V PLUS is extremely competent and deserves due credit as it not only is simple to use, it also goes the extra distance to convert incompatible video formats to work with the ZEN V PLUS – definitely a big plus point considering that most portable media players leave users in the dust when it comes to format compatibility.  

Firmware Hack?

There are two variants in the ZEN V series and what sets the Creative ZEN V and ZEN V PLUS apart is the latter's inbuilt FM radio hardware and firmware that enables video playback ability. According to Creative, the firmware would be available soon for those who bought the vanilla ZEN V and want video playback sometime later – for a price of course.

Our Gripes

The ZEN V PLUS is not without flaws, and our biggest gripe with it would be its slightly dysfunctional 5-way joystick. The joystick is almost completely flushed with the surface and one would probably need to grow a modest amount of thumbnail to efficiently navigate the menus as well as to prevent thumb-tip trauma. Also another small annoyance was the slow transfer rate, which to some might not be noticeable.

Our Thoughts

Creative has a history of solid products, and the new ZEN V PLUS is no different. Available in 1GB, 2GB and 4GB capacities, this amazingly small and hardy gadget with great multimedia features will strongly appeal to anyone, and is certainly another step in the right direction for Creative to dislodge Apple's hold on the crown.

Product Specifications

  • 1.5-inch, 128 x 128 pixels OLED screen
  • Audio Format: MP3, WMA, WAV, ID3 Tag Support
  • Image Format: JPEG
  • Video Format: AVI (ZEN V PLUS only)
  • FM radio (ZEN V PLUS only)
  • One-touch voice recorder
  • 3.5mm audio-out, 2.5mm audio-in
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio: Up to 90dB
  • Capacity: 1GB, 2GB and 4GB
  • Lithium-ion battery for 15hrs Continuous playback
  • Dimensions: 43.5 x 67.5 x 15.9mm
  • Weight: 43.5g
  • USB 2.0