Creative and Apple have long been arch enemies in the MP3 player market. After this culminated in court hearings, things went quiet for a while. Now it looks as though Creative fancies another go, this time snapping at Apple's foreshortened Shuffle with its Zen Stone.

Creative derided Apple for plugging a tiny MP3 player on which you couldn't select the songs you heard and that had no screen displaying details of what was currently playing. However, Creative's Zen Stone is a featherlight, pebble-shaped player that mimics precisely those non-attributes of Apple's Shuffle that Creative mocked. So the Zen Stone is a bit of a volte-face.

However, it's also far cheaper than a Shuffle of a comparable size. With dozens of dinky no-brand MP3 players undercutting each other online and on the high street, the pedigree of Creative's £27 Zen Stone ought to turn heads. The shiny black plastic Stone we were sent for review inspired non-committal umms here at PC Advisor Towers, but it's also available in juicy lime green as well as pink, red, white and bright blue.

It charges from a mini USB jack and you drag-and-drop tracks on to it. It switches on and off with a lengthy press of its central play/pause button. Volume is adjusted by pressing your thumb up or down and you can skip or replay tracks by pressing the fast-forward and rewind buttons to the left and right.

There's no equaliser, but the output was extremely good, even through the cheapo earphones Creative supplied (and we quickly discarded). We got around 10 hours play, seeing us through a rainy bank holiday up and down the A1. We got a bit bored of the ‘surprise' of what was coming next, but you can at least skip a folder (aka album) at a time.

Creative Zen Stone: Specs

  • 1GB MP3, WMA and Audible spoken book player
  • lithium-ion battery
  • mini USB jack
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 53x32x13mm
  • 19g
  • 1GB MP3, WMA and Audible spoken book player
  • lithium-ion battery
  • mini USB jack
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 53x32x13mm
  • 19g

OUR VERDICT

In a year dominated by shiny surfaces and touchscreens, the Zen Stone is lacking a certain wow. But if you want a no-nonsense player to accompany you as you run, skate, or endure the morning commute, it won't weigh you down and it won't break the bank.

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