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We made it to the launch event, we grabbed a few shots over a bottle-strewn bar table, we threw up an article covering its capabilities, now at last we get to fondle Creative's latest creation, the Zen Vision:M.

Back on the 8th of December last year(05), when the Vision:M launched, we heard Creative CEO Sim Wong Hoo explaining how Creative had managed to sell an impressive 8 million MP3 players during the year, and despite an almost convincing smug look he must surely have been aware of the fact that Apple had sold 5.3 million iPods in just the first three months of the same year.
Hidden among the hype and his very obvious fondness the Vision:M, Hoo introduced us to an interesting term. He called the Vision:M an "SLR" type media player, by which he was suggesting we "forget about the size, look at the features", and it's a valid point. Based on current screen and hard disk technology you can't cram high capacities and a screen big enough to be comfortable for prolonged use into a body the size of, for example, an iPod Nano. Ample storage and ample screen real estate means bigger dimensions, at least it does until we get screens that either fold up or roll up.

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Capacity: 30GB hard drive
Size: 104 x 62 x 18.6mm
Weight: 163g
LCD: 2.5" LCD @ 320 x 240 Colour Display 262,144 colours
Songs: 15,000 WMAs/ 1,000hrs (at 64kbps) - 7,500 MP3/ 500hrs (at 128kbps)
Video: 120 hrs (MPEG4 videos) 1
Photos: Tens of thousands of Photos
Audio Battery Life: Up to 14 hrs playtime (MP3, 128kbps, 4mins/ song)- Up to 8 hrs playtime (WMA, 64kbps, 4mins/ song) - Up to 14 hrs FM playtime
Video Battery Life: Up to 4 hrs video playtime
Supported Audio formats: MP3, WMA (inc MS PD DRM), WAV
Support Video formats: DivX 4 & 55, XviD5, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG4-SP, WMV9, Motion-JPEG
Supported Photo formats: JPEG, BMP6, GIF6, TIFF6
Signal-to-Noise Ratio: up to 97dB
FM & FM recording: 32 preset stations
EQ settings: 8 presets & custom 5 band EQ setting
USB: 2.0
Organiser: Calendar, Contact, Task list
Power Charging: Charges via Power Adapter (2.5hrs only) or PC thru USB (6hrs)
TV Out: Yes
Photo with Music: Yes
Voice Recording: Yes
Removable Disk Storage: Yes
Album Art: Slideshow, Thumbnail, Zoom, Pan
Docking connector (USB2.0 with Sync Adapter)
Stereo headphone out with Wired Remote Support
Composite AV Out (NTSC and PAL)
Built-in Microphone

At 104mm by 62mm and 18.6mm thick, the Vision:M is a full 7.5mm thicker than a 30GB iPod and a centimetre thicker than the 60GB iPod. It's also heavier by almost an ounce. Using Amazon as a reference the Vision:M is also more expensive at 216 as opposed to just 189.99 for the 30GB iPod.

Okay, so those are a few negatives, shortly we'll temper them with a look at some of the positives you get in exchange for all that extra bulk and brass. First things first though, let's start at the beginning.

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Slick styling has always been a Creative forte, and the Vision:M is testament to the fact. Inside the mean and moody black box is the player itself accompanied by the necessary software on a single CD, though notably absent is any support for the Mac. A paper-based product info and quick-start guide are a welcome inclusion in these days of CD only e-manuals, as is the soft carry pouch, so often an extra purchase.

The supplied earphones, despite things I've read to the contrary, are actually surprisingly good with decent bass and a warm, rich overall tone. Unless you're especially fussy about sound quality these are easily as good as the vast majority of half-decent aftermarket ear-buds.

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They're also pretty comfortable, though it seems Creative couldn't quite pluck up the courage to move too far away from the iPod styling, or colour!

Charging is handled either directly from your (powered) USB port or, if you're in a hurry, via the bundled mains charger.

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By using a slot-in design, the mains charger can either plug directly into your wall socket or you could opt instead for plugging in a regular figure-of-eight power lead and positioning the transformer somewhere out of the way. In the picture on the right you can see the plug-in dongle required to convert the proprietary port into a regular Mini-B type USB port, a mains charging jack and the A/V out jack for TV connection. The use of this dongle, while a minor inconvenience, helps to simplify docking by having just a single connector on the device while also allowing the use of standard leads for general use. That said I believe Creative have not followed conventional wiring for their A/V cable and that you need to buy their branded cable to guarantee it functioning. No AV cable is supplied in the box.

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