Background: Prior to our recent S.Africa / London trip we decided to get some sort of mp3/video player as a way to pass the long flight times. I looked at three main options, all with 30 Gb of space: the video iPod, the Archos 504, and the Creative Zen Vision W. The iPod is very nice, small and light, but I felt the screen was too small for movie viewing. There was also no easy way to charge the non-removable battery in-flight. Both the Archos and the Zen had a large screen and the option for a secondary battery. However, the Archos is a modular unit, which meant it didn’t come standard with a compact flash reader, while the Zen had the reader already built-in. Plus the Archos was more expensive… so we purchased the Zen.
The good: The screen is quite enjoyable for watching movies, much better than the screens built into airline seats and comparable in quality to a laptop screen. However, by turning the brightness down we got nearly 5 hours of video use out of each battery, much better than my laptop. Organization of music, movies, pictures, etc, on the unit is relatively straightforward. The compact flash reader worked as advertised, allowing the transfer of files from our camera chip to the Zen for storage and viewing. Output to a TV screen is quite good – we were able to watch “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” in South Africa without problem.
The bad: Podcasts are a little difficult to find at times; for example, some are sent to the “Video” section. However, the worst feature is the clunky software used to transfer and transcode material. Slow, mysterious, and far too many individual applications is the best description. It is possible to use explorer, windows media, etc. for transfer, but none of them are great either. Certainly not as simplified as iTunes. And finding the correct video codec specs in other transcoding programs is a nightmare. Slysoft’s CloneDVDMobile was by far the best at transcoding movies.
You certainly wouldn’t want to jog with the Vision W, but it is quite handy as a portable video player, and a good size for plane travel. We are definitely glad we bought one.