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Old 09-03-2007, 12:00 AM
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Default Official Zen PR from Creative

Creative Ltd. has released their official Press Release regarding the newly announced player simply named "Zen". My summary of features and analysis of the player follow the PR quoted here:
Quote:
MILPITAS, Calif. - Aug. 28, 2007 - Creative (NASDAQ: CREAF), a worldwide leader in digital entertainment products, today introduced the Creative ZEN™, the credit card-sized music, video and photo player with a stunning 2.5-inch color screen that supports up to 16.7 million colors. The Creative ZEN is the first Creative player to support AAC music and unprotected iTunes Plus tracks from the iTunes store, in addition to MP3 and WMA formats. You can now listen to up to 4,000* of your favorite tracks that you have ripped from CDs through your iTunes software. The Creative ZEN can carry up to 60** hours of video or thousands of photos, and it features an SD memory slot, so you can add virtually limitless additional storage capacity and easily bring new music, video or photos to the player. The Creative ZEN will be available next month in 4GB, 8GB and 16GB models, priced at US$149.99, $199.99 and $299.99 respectively. The player will be available at U.S. retailers including Circuit City, Crutchfield, Fry's Electronics, J&R Music World and Wal-Mart, and online at Amazon.com, Buy.com, CircuitCity.com, Frys.com, JR.com, Newegg.com, Target.com and Wal-Mart.com. The Creative ZEN will be available in Canada at Best Buy Canada, Future Shop and The Source by Circuit City.

“The Creative ZEN immediately gets your attention because it has the same size screen as our award-winning Creative ZEN Vision:M, but it's so much smaller, lighter and thinner,” said Craig McHugh, president of Creative Labs, Inc. “With the vibrant 2.5-inch screen, you can now have a great video watching and photo viewing experience with a very compact player.”

The Creative ZEN supports a wide selection of video formats, including WMV9, MJPEG, MPEG4-SP,*** compatible DivX***4 and 5, and XviD.*** One charge of the built-in rechargeable battery provides up to 5 hours of video entertainment or up to 25 hours of music playback.**** You can choose from popular subscription services such as Napster To Go or purchase tracks from popular download sites. At up to 97dB SNR, the audio quality of the Creative ZEN is outstanding. It sounds as good as or better than many home music systems.

The player's patented ZEN user interface has a fresh new look for a more stunning visual experience, enabling more information to be viewed on the screen. The Creative ZEN also includes a built-in FM radio with 32 station presets, a voice recorder, and a personal organizer to sync-up contacts, to do lists, and your calendar to Microsoft Outlook.

A variety of accessories will be available for the Creative ZEN when it hits retail and online stores:
  • Leather case with integrated stand, priced at US$24.99
  • Clear case with a stand, priced at US$19.99
  • Armband with a player enclosure, priced at US$19.99
  • Three-pack of colored skins in black, red and blue, priced at US$19.99
  • Skin with wire management, priced at US$19.99
  • Three-pack of screen protectors, priced at US$7.99
  • Power adapter or car charger, priced at US$29.99
For more information about the Creative ZEN visit www.us.creative.com.

*Based on 16GB player with AAC format encoded at approximately 4 minutes per song at 128kbps or MP3 format encoded at approximately 4 minutes per song at 128kbps. The Creative ZEN can also hold up to 8,000 WMA songs encoded at approximately 4 minutes per song at 64kbps.
**1GB = 1,000,000,000 bytes. Available capacity will be less. Reported capacity will vary. Video claim based on WVM9 video encoded at 500kbps.
*** XviD encoded files are playable if they are encoded as standard MPEG-4 Simple (SP) or Advanced Simple Profile (ASP) without GMC and OPEL support. This product is not certified by DivX Inc. and may not play all DivX 4 and 5 files. Other formats (e.g. MPEG 1 and 2) may be trans-coded with bundled software and requires the respective codec pre-installed on the PC.
****Actual battery life will vary with use.

About Creative
Creative is a worldwide leader in digital entertainment products. Famous for its Sound Blaster® sound cards and for launching the multimedia revolution, Creative is now driving digital entertainment on the PC platform with products like its highly acclaimed ZEN MP3 and portable media players. Creative's innovative hardware, proprietary technology, applications and services leverage the Internet, enabling consumers to experience high-quality digital entertainment - anytime, anywhere.
So... What we have here is Yet Another Flash-based Zen - considerably smaller and lighter than the now-discontinued Vision:M, and slightly larger than the Zen V Plus, and with more features. Since this new player appears to be the Vision:M's replacement, I'll summarize the features and compare them with the features offered by the ZVM:


This looks to be a pretty attractive player in its own right, but seems a dubious replacement for the ZVM. For one thing, it lacks the capacity of the ZVM, so won't be sufficient for those needing a large-capacity player. Yes, you can purchase a 16GB HDSD card to effectively double the player's capacity making it equal to the 30GB ZVM, but at $299 MSRP for just the 16GB Zen, this "upgrade" easily makes the Zen the most expensive 30GB DAP on the planet! Secondly are the apparent loss of native video codec support. Although there have been conflicting reports of what exactly is supported natively, Creative's US site very unequivocably states that the major codecs require trans-conversion (presumably to WMV). This is a far cry better than the V Plus's uncompressed-AVI support, but still deals a major blow to the supposed successor to the Zen crown. Lastly, there does not appear to be any sort of line-level or video output, so forget about watching your movies on a TV.

Sometimes I really, really have to wonder what the hell is going through Creative's mind when they decide what to put out on the market! Creative has the most potential out of all the various DAP manufacturers to really take a nasty bite out of Apple's marketshare -- but they repeatedly fail to capitalize on their successes by flooding the market with different players that are similar to each other, and then they keep redesigning from the ground up! Probably the biggest thing going for the iPod is its product identity. Except for a few cosmetic changes here and there, the physical characteristics of the iPod have remained virtually unchanged throughout its generational updates. When someone says "iPod", you can instantly picture the thing in your mind. When someone says "Zen", however, you're left wondering, "which one?" Creative had a good thing going with the Vision:M's design. It wouldn't have taken much to replace the touchpad with a set of tactile controls and still preserve the appearance of the player. Instead, they come out with a new design, essentially taking the physical layout of the Vision W, replacing its controls and screen with those of the ZVM, and compressing it into a package just a tad larger than a V-Plus. Who the hell is going to immediately identify that in a crowd?

In summary, the Zen looks like a nice, sleek, sexy player that can easily fit in one's pocket with room to spare, with most of the power of its Vision-class predecessors, and a first for the Zen-series: A true-color display. The addition of AAC .m4a capability is a nice touch, which should allow former iPod users a slightly easier time exporting their iTunes collections. However, those looking for a large-capacity player have been completely left in the dark, as have anyone looking for wide video codec support or the ability to output to a TV or line-level equipment. Hopefully, the Vision W won't share the ZVM's fate in being discontinued.
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