Creative Zen Stone Plus CloseUp Review ~ Creative Labs Zen MP3 Players Sound Blaster Card
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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Creative Zen Stone Plus CloseUp Review

Creative Zen Stone PlusWe finally got our hands on the best selling MP3 player, the Zen Stone Plus! The Zen Stone lacks many features such as FM radio, stopwatch, voice recording, OLED screen, etc. Many people do not mind paying just a few extra dollars to get themselves a equally tiny but huge features Plus model. What's more, it comes at double the diskspace capacity at 2GB. Works on both Win XP and Win Vista operating system.

Let's take a look at it specifications:
Capacity: 2GB
Song Capacity: 1000 WMA/ 66hrs (64kbps), 500 MP3/ 33hrs (128kbps)
Battery Life/ Playtime: Up to 9.5 hours for continuous audio playback
Battery Type: Rechargeable Li-Ion Polymer (Embedded)
Display: 64 x 64 blue OLED display
Size: 55.6 x 35.4 x 12.8 mm
Weight: 21g
Audio Support: MP3, WMA, Audible, WAV (IMA-ADPCM 8kHz, 4-bit mono)
Mass Storage Device: Yes.
Connectivity: USB 1.1/ 2.0
Supported Music Services: Audible (2 and 3)
FM: 32 preset stations
Voice Recording: Yes

We have here a pink lovely Zen Stone Plus for the lady with a black skin.
Creative Zen Stone Plus
Creative Zen Stone Plus
Creative Zen Stone Plus
Creative Zen Stone Plus
Creative Zen Stone PlusSee how it fits into my palm and how tiny it is.
Overall, we think this is a hit, in term of design, its tiny and trendy. Many teenagers will like it for its style, vibrant colors and affordable low price. Great as a companion during workout and gym sessions. Its already becoming the top sellers @ Creative Stores.
zen stone plus top seller
Please register for a free login to access the downloads @ myCreative Fansite Forum (Member Area) Thanks!


Anonymous said...

As a pleased owner of 4 Zen Stones (3 are my wife's) and 1 Plus, who happens to be an expert user-interface designer, I'll comment that the Plus could be much better. I think the non-Plus is absolutely excellent, and could have well been taken as the perfect basis for the core functionality of the Plus. As it is, I could not recommend the Plus to any but a very techie customer, whereas I do, heartily, recommend the non-Plus to everyday people. Even though the display on the Plus should, theoretically, make the basic functions, in common with the non-Plus, more useable, in fact, it doesn't.

Probably the worst feature of the Plus is that the buttons don't function except after the display is lit, being taken only as a "turn on the display" otherwise. Better to have had them do their function and turn on the display than the way it is. The philosophy of such a change would be to handle the problem of "race conditions", which occur where menu navigation also times out, possibly just an instant before one pushes the "forward" button, intending a navigation operation, but skips his "music" position to the next track.

The reason this is such an important issue is that significant use of such devices is not for listening to music, but rather for listening to audio-books. Losing one's place in that case is not a meaningless loss. In fact, the value of position for audio-books is so great that it dictates a very desirable feature -- tracking of multiple streams. Probably three such streams for MP3 listening would be ideal.

Ignoring the three-streams wish-list-item for now, what I'd propose is first: have the buttons take effect and turn on the display -- no state-dependent behavior based on whether the display is on.

For clarity, going on, I'll call the buttons:

A = the left top edge button (the shortcut button)
B = the right top edge button (currently on/off et al)
U = up
D = down
L = left
R = right
C = center

I'd make the C-button provide the functions of on/off and pause/continue like the non-Plus (held is on/off, clicked is pause/continue). For FM-tuner mode, C-clicked would be "mute". One needs a "mute" in everyday life that is quickly accessible.

The B-button should enter & exit menu-navigation. But menu-navigation doesn't time-out, even after the display turns off. In menu-navigation mode, pressing the B-button cancels the begun navigation, leaving the mode the same as before navigation.

For Menu-navigation, the L, R, and C buttons would still do the navigation, with the C-button doing the selection, ending the navigation.

The B-button, held, is what would go into the submenus that currently the C-button, held, gives, and this change gives consistency that it's always the B-button that enters both menu modes (held or clicked).

In Browse-Music navigation mode, just scrolling down to the next folder should not start play of that folder, but should rather wait for a press of the C-button (or a cancel with the B button). This gives the ability to actually browse what you have available, rather than having an audio preview, one at a time, at the expense of losing your place.

Since the function of the B-button, clicked, in FM-tuner mode, wouldn't be translated to the C-button, but rather the C-button used to give "mute", the Presets-versus-raw-Tuning mode would need to be selected via menu, which seems to be what you guys had in mind in the first place, as it appears in the menu anyway.

Getting the display to show again after it had turned off could be done by the user at any time by clicking the B-button twice. One would lose orientation when one was doing menu navigation, but clearly if one didn't know where he was in navigation, such that just going on would have turned on the display, this would be just as well.

If one knew, for sure that he wasn't in navigation mode, clicking the C-button twice (pause/mute and resume, or vice-versa) would also work. Otherwise, clicking the U or D button would just bump the volume, which, after volume time-out, would show the current mode, also.

Returning to the subject of desirability of multiple MP3 streams, this might best be done as two additional "music" modes, say "Music 2" and "Music 3" after the "Settings" entry of the main menu. This would allow one to be listening to, say, 2 separate audio books, each having its own position, and still be able to use the main "Music" entry for actual music. The Randomize function would only apply to the main "Music (1)" mode. The use of Browse Music would apply to the current "stream".

Everything else is reasonable enough that just doing these would make things good, and keep the re-programming effort to a minimum. I'd guarantee these would make for an improved new-user experience, and better sales via word-of-mouth recommendations via the reduced learning curve -- not to mention better upward compatibility from the non-Plus. I have given instructions on basic use of the Plus to ordinary people and lent mine to them, and they do not respond well to how it works. OTOH, I have given a 200-word writeup of how-to with a lent-out non-Plus and have had to order 3 so far for people not techie enough to do their own online ordering.

I'd be willing to see if I could hack together a version of such changes for Creative's Q/A and Marketing to try if someone would point me to the instruction-set and loader format of the gizmo.

- Lenny Gray -

PS: Creative Media Lite should know that a PC and the Plus will not stay exactly in time-sync, and accept some minor mismatch, say 5 or 10 seconds, rather than asking on every connect if you want to re-sync.

Creative Fan said...

Hi Lenny
its a great writeup and review! we would like to invite you to be our article write where you can write anything about Creative!

We have the zen stone and zen stone plus instruction manual, would that helps?

You can contact us here or at our forum. Hoping to hear from you!

Anonymous said...

Actually, what I was looking for was the chipset instruction-set (SigmaTel?) and the format of the firmware updater. With that I'd take a look at reverse-engineering enough to patch the firmware (normally one would need a development system, and normally reversing is a no-no, but I have good intentions. 8)).

- Lenny Gray -

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