The Creative Zen V Plus is an iPod-nano killer with a difference: it might actually be better than Apple's media player.

When PC Advisor reviewed Creative's Zen V we were delighted to find a device that looked vaguely iPod nano-esque, but didn't feature the same fiddly clickwheel that dominates Apple's – and many of its imitators' – digital audio players.

Considering the Creative Zen V Plus' addition of an FM radio and video playback, and a tag just £8 greater than its predecessor, the Mac brigade can keep their iPods. The Creative Zen V Plus is a PlaysForSure player, meaning it's designed to integrate with Windows Media Player and any online music stores of the same ilk. You can record tracks from another playback device via the Creative Zen V Plus' bundled line-in cable, too.

But while we applaud Creative for spurning wheel-based menu navigation, we'd have preferred one to the cheap-feeling, five-way joystick with which the Creative Zen V Plus is saddled and that is guaranteed to gather grime.

Still, being somewhat stubbier than Apple's iPod nano, and at the expense of only a few grams, the Creative Zen V Plus feels meaty. It's simple to use one-handed, with buttons ergonomically positioned for the left thumb.

The Creative Zen V Plus is small enough to comfortably slip into a pocket and, although its polished casing is a magnet for fingerprints, it won't scratch easily. Creative supplies an oversized with the V Plus, but its hardiness means you won't need to use it.

With the Creative Zen V Plus you don't get top-end extras such as built-in Wi-Fi – something Microsoft's Zune player sports – but video playback on the Creative Zen V Plus' 1.5in, 128x128-pixel Oled screen will inspire envy.

In an indoor environment, the Creative Zen V Plus' vibrant display can be comfortably viewed even if you're not looking at it face-on, but outdoors, the onscreen action is hard to make out. However, the Creative Zen V Plus' small screen, which makes it less than ideal for viewing lengthy video clips is a complaint we can level at any of the new generation of compact portable video players, from iPods to Sony's excellent Walkman video players.

The Creative Zen V Plus features all the usual play and shuffle modes, plus eight equaliser presets, bass boost and smart volume. There's a microphone with one-click recording, themes, tasks and contacts, an alarm clock and calendar, menu customisability, a photo slideshow that plays aside music and a choice of wallpaper. Plus the Creative Zen V Plus is an external storage device, allowing you to configure a specific partition for portable storage.

The Creative Zen V Plus' bundled software is unneccesary for synching the device with the PC, but useful for converting video formats, managing playlists, recordings and podcasts, or synching data with Outlook.

We managed to squeeze an impressive 20 hours of playback from the Creative Zen V Plus, which is quoted at just 15 hours. The Creative Zen V Plus' Sound quality is excellent, but we recommend you invest in a decent set of earphones.

Creative Zen V Plus: Specs

  • MP3, WMA, Jpeg, Album Art, Transcoded Video Format, PlayForSure and Audible music services supported
  • includes Creative MediaSource and ZENcast Organizer (for podcasts)
  • 1.5in (128x128 pixels) Oled display
  • built-in microphone
  • FM tuner with 32 presets
  • mass storage for data files
  • organiser
  • custom EQ and eight EQ presets
  • USB 2.0
  • rechargeable lithium-ion battery, 20 hours playback (15 quoted)
  • capacity 1GB/2GB/4GB/8GB
  • package includes earphones, drawstring pouch, lanyard, USB 2.0 and line-in cables
  • 43.5x67.5x15.9mm
  • 43.5g. System requirements: Intel Pentium III 1GHz, AMD Duron 1GHz or better processor
  • Windows XP/Vista
  • 256MB RAM
  • 170MB hard disk space
  • MP3, WMA, Jpeg, Album Art, Transcoded Video Format, PlayForSure and Audible music services supported
  • includes Creative MediaSource and ZENcast Organizer (for podcasts)
  • 1.5in (128x128 pixels) Oled display
  • built-in microphone
  • FM tuner with 32 presets
  • mass storage for data files
  • organiser
  • custom EQ and eight EQ presets
  • USB 2.0
  • rechargeable lithium-ion battery, 20 hours playback (15 quoted)
  • capacity 1GB/2GB/4GB/8GB
  • package includes earphones, drawstring pouch, lanyard, USB 2.0 and line-in cables
  • 43.5x67.5x15.9mm
  • 43.5g. System requirements: Intel Pentium III 1GHz, AMD Duron 1GHz or better processor
  • Windows XP/Vista
  • 256MB RAM
  • 170MB hard disk space

OUR VERDICT

A nice design, superb battery life and sharp sound make the stylish Creative Zen V Plus a good buy for those who don't want to go along with the herd and buy an iPod nano.

Find the best price