Readers of my blog know that I’ve been agonizing over the perfect media player for listening to Podcasts in my car. My solution up to now has been the Palm TX. The reason its a good podcast player is the Pocket Tunes player has a robust bookmarking feature. It also has a built-in speaker and since I always have it with me, it was handy. Pocket Tunes also supports PlaysForSure, so I can use it with my Napster music subscription service. The downside is that it is difficult and dangerous to operate the TX while driving. Also, even with a hard case, the TX is somewhat breakable, so not good for when I’m in the garage or yard.
In any event, I was able to pick up an 8GB Creative Zen V Plus for $159 with free shipping and no rebates. So I bit. The cool features of the Zen V Plus are well documented on the Net, like in this CNet review or PC mag review, so I’ll focus on some features that are important to me and not covered in depth elsewhere.�
Bookmarking is essential if you listen to long podcasts or audio books. I’ve researched it to death and determined that only Creative has bookmarking. iRiver, Sandisk, Samsung, and Toshiba all do not. Rio does, but not sure if they are still in business. I even looked for an app to convert mp3s to Audible format, which auto-bookmarks, but no such animal. Note that iPod and Zune don’t have formal bookmarking either and neither supports PlaysForSure.
Bookmarking on the Zen V is easy. Just hold down the button and set
a bookmark in one of the ten available slots. It uses the track title as the bookmark name.
Now, only Sandisk and Samsung offer players with a built-in speaker. The Creative lacks this. My solution is to use a small speaker that plugs into the headphone jack. I got a really small cube-shaped one on order from eBay. Uses a Lithium Ion battery. Not the highest audio quality I’ll admit, but its just for podcasts mostly. In the meantime, I’ll use one that I have that was made from the iPod. Actually,
The Zen V uses a standard mini-USB connector. This probably doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the Sansa Connect, iPods, and even Creative’s own Zen Vision M, all have a special connector on the device side. It’s nice to be able to use a standard cable away from home.
I’ve also found that many USB devices won’t charge unless you have their special software installed. I believe it has something to do with the need to be in the special MTP mode that is required to support PlaysForSure. In other words, the device’s unique MTP device driver has to be installed. If its not installed, Windows doesn’t see a USB device connected. It can be a problem if you want to charge the device, say, at work or in the car. (Note: there are special chargers available, but that’s just something else to carry around.)
Anyways, the work around–which I blogged earlier about–is to put the Zen V into removable disk mode. When its in this mode, Windows will see the Zen as a removable drive and also charge it. The only downside is that you must dedicate a portion of memory; 128MB being the minimum. Note that this part of memory is totally independent of the MTS side and you can’t play music stored here. Since I’ve got 8GB,� I was happy to throw the 128MB away for the added functionality.
After you get the Zen software installed, you can use the Zen Media Explorer to manage your media. The Zen also appears as a device in normal Windows Explorer; however, although it looks like a removable drive, there are subtle differences. You can only copy and delete–no move function. You can’t directly create a folder, but you can copy a folder into a folder and achieve the same result.
I like the fact that you can delete a music file right on the player which I couldn’t do on my iPod.�
The ZenCast Organizer is a very basic podcatching app. There are a few pre-defined ones you can select from. No OPML import/export so you’ll have to add most of your subscriptions one by one. It will do automatic syncing to the player so it might be a workable solution for me. It is very slow to download though.
The SyncManager app will sync contacts, calendar and tasks with Outlook. There is no way to edit or add. It’s a straight copy job from your PC app. It’s very fast.
The OLED screen is gorgeous and pictures/videos look nice, but its unlikely you’ll do much extended viewing on this 1.5″ screen.
The navigation controls are logical and straight forward. No scrollwheel so scanning through long lists can be tedious, but not too bad.
It’s pretty light and the case seems pretty sturdy. I haven’t dropped it yet, but it looks like it could take a licking. I’m thinking about living dangerously and going caseless with maybe just a screen protector. The reason is that it is so small, the buttons are all over and a case I fear would just get in the way.
Anyways, so far, I’m quite happy with this device. I’m not happy that I must carry around yet another gadget, but hopefully I’ll get used to it.