MP3 Players

Popularity isn't everything

The battle between the 5G iPod and the Creative Zen Vision: M (ZVM) has long been over. Lines have been drawn, sides have been taken, and screen quality has been compared. Most people already have one or the other (true audiophiles, meanwhile, have barely looked up from their OGG- and FLAC-supporting iAudio players). Case closed, right?

Not quite. With lawsuits and countersuits still being filed against and between Apple and Creative over patents and various infringements, I thought a minor rehashing of the players might be in order. It’s no secret that my feet are firmly planted on the ZVM’s battlefield, but I am not an iPod hater by any means. Sure, I’ve got Anything But iPod bookmarked and I did laugh out loud at SanDisk’s iDon’t campaign, but I also owned a second-generation iPod in 2002, seriously considered the current fifth-gen one before the ZVM’s release, and even bought several as gifts. So I’m not just another sheep who blindly follows the crowd because it’s trendy. Not that I’m impervious to trends either, of course, but I am capable of determining for myself when something is more hype than substance.

Before anything else, everyone notices and comments on the ZVM’s thickness and immediately writes it off. Yes, we all know that the iPod is thinner and lighter than just about anything else on the market. But should a product’s size be touted as its only noteworthy quality? We’ve all heard the phrase "thin is in," but what about "more bang for the buck"?

Arguing over aesthetics or anything subjective is pretty ridiculous (standards of beauty are largely dictated by the media anyway), so I won’t go into any of that. Considering that both 30GB players have an MSRP of $299, though, it’s sensible to take an objective look at what those dollars are actually getting you.

Both have the same dimensions (4.1" x 2.4"), but the iPod is thinner (0.43") than the ZVM (0.7").

The iPod is lighter (4.8 oz) than the ZVM (5.7 oz).

Both are available in black and white. The ZVM is also available in pink, baby blue, and green.

Screen size
Both feature a 2.5" screen with a 320 x 240 native resolution.

Screen colors
The ZVM’s screen reproduces 4 times as many colors (262, 144) than the iPod’s (65,000).

Battery life
Both have a reported audio battery life of 14 hours. The ZVM’s video battery life (about 4 hours) is double that of the iPod’s (about 2 hours).

The iPod works exclusively with iTunes, while the ZVM works with Windows Media Player, Creative Media Explorer, Windows Explorer, Creative MediaSync, Winamp, and Media Monkey.

Audio formats
Both support MP3, WAV, and Audible files. In addition, the iPod supports AAC, Lossless Apple, and of course iTunes-protected files. The ZVM supports WMA and DRM-protected WMA (offered by virtually all other online music stores and subscription services such as Napster, Rhapsody, Wal-Mart Downloads, and MSN Music).

Photo formats
Both support JPEG, GIF, BMP, TIFF, and PNG files. The iPod also supports PSD files.

Video formats
The ZVM supports DivX, XviD, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 (SP), WMV, and MJPEG. The iPod supports only H.264 and MPEG-4.

TV-Out resolution
The ZVM offers twice the resolution (640 x 480) of the iPod (320 x 240).

Extra features
Both include a calendar, address book, and tasks list. The iPod has games, while the ZVM offers a voice recorder, FM radio and recorder, syncing with Microsoft Outlook, and color themes.

Unless Apple comes out with a better product, you won’t ever see my ZVM on eBay (which is where my iPod found a new home). Maybe it’s just me, but I like getting more for my money and having the freedom to choose which music management software and online music services I want to use with my device.

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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