Damaged Gears

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Damage Reviews: Zen Stone Plus

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Or, in an alternate universe, the iPod Stone.  So much wasted potential, if you want me to sum it up.  It has what iPod Shuffle (the new clips), doesn’t: A Screen, standard USB 2.0 Port, MSC, MP3 and WMA playback, FM Radio, Voice Recording.  This plus the standard shuffle functions that made the iPod shuffle… so shufflelopogustic!  All of that paired with buttons that work as they should, and sound quality that rivals the Sandisk Sansa E100s. iPod Shuffle (the Gumstick) or the Sonys of the world and priced to move at $70 for 2GB, you’d think that Creative has a winner on their hand.

However, the Zen Stone Plus Sinks like a stone in a pond in several critical issues:

1.  Battery Life.  It stinks.  10 hours used to be great in 2004.  It stinks in 2007.  Actually, lemme take that back, it’s less than 10 hours (8-9 hours on the average), with 3 hours to charge.  To compare, the NW-S703F has 40-50 hours of battery life, charges for 3 hour use in 3 minutes (not 3 hours) and is about 50% larger than the Stone. Actually, it’s more than 50% larger, but at the same time, it has other features, like a color OLED screen,  functional music browsing, and NC features.

2.  Browsing function interrupts music listening.  Fail.

3.  Monochromatic OLED screen is useless during the day.  Hell, all OLED screens fail in sunlight.  At least, in indoor settings, it’s more than bright enough to be very useful.  Just not outside.

4.  Aesthetics.  The USB port (using one is great, and I applaud Creative for it) disrupts the Zen-ness of the Zen Stone into something not Zen.  Heck, Creative could’ve thrown in a clip to make it functional as the iPod Shuffle, but no.

If items 1 and 2 were rectified with future firmware upgrades, then the Zen Stone + makes for a compelling iPod Shuffle alternative.  As it stands, it’s another DAP in a crowded market.  At least you can pair it with WMP’s auto fill feature for some shuffle action for those of us that are extremely anti StevieJ.  And the sound quality does shine.  However, when the supporting cast fails, the main cast looks foolish and dumb. 

Well, it looks slightly better than Sansa Clip…  It’s got THAT going for it.

Zen Stone Plus shows everyone of us why the supporting cast is just as important as the starring cast. 

Grade: C+

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Written by Damage

10/17/07 at 10:26 pm

Posted in Soapbox

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