Creative Zen Vision W Review – 60 GB Personal Media Player

John P.

Creative Zen WAhh, toys… the latest one to enter the fold is the Creative Zen Vision W personal media player. This device does just about everything.

But is it any good? Well, read on to find out.

Feature List

  • 4.3″ WQVGA high-resolution LCD screen – View 480 x 272 resolution in a wide aspect screen at up to 262,144 colors or output video and photos to an external display at a maximum of 720×480.
  • Holds up to 240 hours of movies – ZEN support formats such as AVI, DivX 4 & 53, XviD4, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG4-SP, WMV9 and Motion-JPEG, which simply means more choices and fewer restrictions.
  • Store up to tens of thousands of photos – Complete with a thumbnail gallery and zoom capabilities.
  • Zen Vision WUp to 15,000 songs – With 5-band EQ or 8 preset EQ settings and 96dB signal-to-noise ratio.
  • TV output – Connect the ZEN to a projector or TV with the bundled AV cable for everyone to see.
  • FM radio – Listen to more music with the integrated FM radio with 32 station presets.
  • Personal organizer – Syncs your contacts, calendar, and tasks with Microsoft Outlook.
  • Voice recorder – Record meetings, lectures, even voice memos.
  • Long lasting battery – Enjoy up to 13 hours of music, or 4.5 hours of movies.
  • Offload digital photos – Transfer pictures from your camera to ZEN without a computer.

Initial Impressions

The device was packaged with accessories including earbud headphones, a wall power adapter, a USB cable, a software disc, A/V-out cables, and a felt case.

After unpacking the device I noticed that it is hefty, but not heavy. It weighs 10.5 ounces and though it looks a little plain you can tell that the screen is quality even before you turn it on.

Creative Media ExplorerThe software installed just fine on my heavily abused XP system and is very simple to use. It includes functions to load songs, video and photos on the device as well as the ability to rip audio CDs. One thing notably missing however was the ability to rip DVDs.

This to me was a glaring omission. How does Creative expect people to get their DVDs into this PMP device? In order to perform this task I had to use some other software. I’ve documented the process of ripping DVDs to your hard drive for transfer to the Zen here. I’ve got two options, one fairly simple but not free, one free but a little more complicated.

Back to the review at hand…

Creative Media ImportI found Creative’s transfer software to be very simple to use and after loading up some MP3s and videos I immediately plugged in my Bose QuietComfort 2 headphones to take a listen. With these headphones I initially felt the sound quality was a little flat, but then I changed the EQ settings to suit my preference and it sounded fantastic.

I then threw on a movie and was impressed with the sharpness and clarity of the video. I never forgot that I was watching a tiny screen, but I was very, very happy that I hadn’t picked up an iPod. The Zen W’s screen is at least 200% larger and I wouldn’t want it any smaller.

The only thing that I immediately missed is some sort of built in stand for the unit. If you want to set it down to watch it you’ll have to lean it against something, and then it wants to slip. I’m considering making a stand for it myself on my PlasmCAM.

The Good and Bad

Things I Like:

  • The screen is beautiful. It is very sharp and clear and has a good refresh rate.
  • The user interface is very intuitive. I didn’t read a single page of the manual, but everything was extremely easy to figure out.
  • The built in speaker is adequate. I wish it could go a little louder but hey, at least it has one, (unlike the iPod and other units).
  • Movie ShotThe player remembers exactly where each movie stopped, and resumes playing from that spot, even if you watch several different movies at at time.
  • The fast forward and rewind functions work awesome! They start out slow and then speed up exponentially. It feels just right – very unlike Ipod.
  • The non-bloated, functional and simple software.
  • Although I haven’t tested it yet, I’m looking forward to syncing the device with TiVo as the box says “…transfer them to your player using TiVoToGo…”.
  • Creative built in a ton of extras such as Outlook contact, calendar and task syncing; and excellent FM radio and a microphone for recording.
  • CNet claims 18 hours and 28 minutes of MP3 battery life, with 5 hours 6 minutes of juice when playing video, which is far more than Creative’s claims. In addition, it’s removable so you could get an extra one if you wanted to keep going after that.

Things I don’t like:

  • You must install the Creative software in order to transfer files. Although you can easily partition up to 16GB to act as USB Mass Storage, it doesn’t allow you to just see the whole 60GB and drop files where you want them. Still, this is a reasonable compromise.
  • Although the size is fine, I wish it was just a little thinner. Its .9″ thick and it would be ideal if it could be more like .3 – .5″ thick. I realize the technology isn’t there yet.
  • The buttons are a little too small for my fingers. I’m 6’1″ with fairly large hands.
  • It doesn’t stand up by it’s self. If you set it down it needs to lean on something.

In order to test the widest range of encoded information I downloaded a bunch of bootlegged movies from the Internet (and then deleted them immediately afterwards of course :-) ). I did this because I can’t possibly create test formats for the wide variety of choices out there.


Formats Tested:

  • I checked out a version of Employee of the Month, encoded with TMPGEnc, 352×240, at 30fps, and it worked well until about 1/2 way through when the voice got out of sync with the video. This is normally associated with the quality of the software used to encode the video.
  • An Inconvenient Truth encoded with TMPGEnc, 352×240, at 30fps worked flawlessly.
  • I tried to install Bowling for Columbine which was encoded with MPEG4, 560×304, 24fps, but the Creative MediaSource software failed to convert it and therefore it did not transfer to the device. The software did not explain why it couldn’t convert it, it just failed.
  • While watching a video of Half Baked (encoded with XVID, 624×336, 24fps) the video played back choppy. Approximately every 10-20 seconds there would be about a .5 second pause.
  • Barnyard, encoded in MPEG1 Layer 2, 352×240, 30fps worked just fine.
  • The Ant Bully, encoded with DivX 6.2.2, 352×240 at 30fps worked perfectly.
  • Casino Royale, which incidentally is the greatest Bond movie ever made!!!, encoded in MPEG1 Layer 2, 352×240, 30fps worked fine as well.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. I’d say that approximately 90% of the movies downloaded at least worked. A few of them had a glitch or two. The ones that I ripped from my own DVDs, using this method, worked flawlessly.


I had considered every personal media player on the market before picking up the Zen Vision W. Money was truly no object, I just wanted to get one that had a fantastic screen, long battery life and excellent compatibility with a wide range of encoding and formats.

For any amount of money I don’t think you can do better than this media player, and given that you can pick one up for $350-400 it makes the perfect A/V travel companion.

Other Resources

As always, questions and comments are welcome, and if you found this article useful please do me the favor of DIGGing it, bookmarking it with, or any of your favorite sites from up by the article title.

Have fun!

EDIT: 1/8/2007 I also just added a complete teardown of this device for those that might be interested in upgrading the hard drive.
Zen Vision W Case
EDIT: 7/12/2007 Thanks to Michael we have this picture of the SF Planet Zen W Case w/stand. As he described it:

The kickstand is built separate as a flap in the back. The top cover just throws back and hangs there to keep the weight pulling backwards onto the kickstand.

And when you’re done, the kickstand is magnetic, so it will snap back to the case and not stick out.


  1. Wendylynn says

    Do you know if there is a free download manual for creative zen vision W.
    There are SO MANY things I can’t figure out on my own. Have had my gadget for several years and it’s time to know how to use more of the functions, but after much searching, I am not able to locate a manual to download. Do you know of one?

    Also, sometimes it freezes up. Have you heard of this with the W model?

    Thanks for responding!

  2. Sergiu says

    Hi! I own a creative zen w and it is broken now. I cannot get it to start. It shows the “Creative Zen W” screen and it stops there. Is there a reset button to it? Or is there something I can do to reset it? I tried taking the batery out but it’s still not working… could you please help?

  3. mountaindiu says

    i had the old vision:m and it was a awesome reliable player. although i moved on to a ipod video 60gb i do miss being able to play avi/divx videos. The vision:w does look a bit too big though. For nothappy you can use windows media player to copy the files over.

  4. nothappy says

    hy,i got creative zen!that thing is stupid,i got win xp with sp1 and of course,its needs sp2 or better,so basicly i need to change my computers Software to put some mp3 on the player,why?is there realy
    people who wona doo all that just to lisen to some music,and why nobody told me about things like that when i both the frikin thing,its aint cheap too,so whats the crack?maybe somebody can help me to get this done without spending hours at the computer luking for some upgrades and installing and uninstalling things,i just dont have time for all that sh,i just wont that thing to work.thanks

  5. sam says

    Hi this is kinda weird !! my little brother sticked a Nokia charger inside the headset port (since he assumed that it fits there :\) so i had 2 ICs burned inside !! right behind the port (yellow colored) so i had them changed i started my zen !! it worked very well ! i entered the recovery mode (by using the battery thing) formated the hard drive and it formated verywell then erased the old firmware and connected the zen to my pc the upgraded the firmware and the zen rebooted after finish !! but the peoblem is i see the “Creative” logo and the “ZEN” logo when it start my zen but then i see NOTHING only a black screen

    what do you think the problem is ?! please help

  6. John Lord says

    Sad to report, word I got from Creative is that they are NOT making the Zen Vision anymore, or the docking stations which I never knew existed and cannot find even listed on eBay. Here’s the email I got from Creative when I asked them about a docking station:

    “Dear John,

    Thank you for reaching us at Creative Email Technical Support. I appreciate the opportunity to assist you. I am sorry for the trouble you having.
    I understand that you are wanting to know why there is no docking station for the Zen Vision. The Zen Vision is no longer being manufactured and this is the same for the docking station, and we are out of stock and no longer able to order. As for as the Xdock this is one of the Wireless sound systems that we manufacture and it is designed for the Ipod the other XFI wireless will work with our MP3 players using the line in feature

    I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

    If you still require assistance, please reply to this email with any previous correspondence to ensure the quickest and most accurate service.

    Best Regards,

    Technical Support
    Creative Labs Americas”

    I bought mine on a close-out sale price at Circuit City in December 2007 just before Christmas. Best Buy didn’t carry them at all.
    Needless to say, I will be VERY careful not to misplace my Zen Vision W, which I also love. I also use it to record the lectures in my college classes. I have two 1� hour lectures, back to back and the battery on it holds up just fine while recording them. When classmates miss a class, I off-load the lecture and burn it to CD to give them the next time they show up.

    I also own a very tiny Creative Nomad Muvo 128mb mp3 player that I use to listen to my audio books on.

    I love my Creative products and only wish they hung in there with the Zen Vision.

    John Lord

    p.s. – I found a web page somewhere that a hobbyist described how he opened his Zen Vision and replaced the hard drive with a 1.8″ 100GB drive designed for the iPod and now has probably the worlds only (or at least, first) 100GB Zen Vision W. I probably won’t be doing that since i don’t want to risk breaking my Zen. Besides, the drive costs about what the 60GB Zen did and if I just go buy a used 60GB Zen Vision W, then I’ll own two Zens with a total of 90Gb between them with no risky hardware hacking.

  7. says

    Good morning all,

    So I love(d) my Zen W 60gig. I used it daily on a lot of aspects of my life. But sometime in Dec I seemed to have misplaced it. I have ripped apart my house, call, office.. it Can not be found. So I figured I would just buy a new one. But it looks like Creative is not making them anymore? They are no in stock Anywhere.. they just seem like they are gone from market. Have anyone heard anything about this? I really can’t seem to find a good replacement for this.. I need a nice screen, a big HD, and a card reader slot. All the Archos look great, but without that card reader slot, it is a no go for me.

    Also, it seems like the “Pages:” (« 1 2 3 4 5 [6] Show All) links on this page above are not working within FF and IE.


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