Targeting the iPod shuffle on its own ground, the Creative Zen Stone Plus brings a petite chassis, 2GB capacity and bargain price tag to the party – and trumps its Apple rival with a built-in speaker and screen.
With its cute, rounded body and range of attractive colours, the Creative Zen Stone Plus is obviously designed to appeal to the fashion-conscious gadgeteer. But it's also a practical item, fitting neatly into a pocket or clipping to clothing with a supplied detachable clip. A touch bigger than the also new Creative Zen Stone, the Stone Plus has a screen and an FM radio where its sister product has neither.
The Creative Zen Stone Plus is slightly bigger than the iPod shuffle, too, but there's a good reason for this, as you shall see.
Firstly, the Creative Zen Stone Plus, unlike its lower-spec Stone sibling, incorporates a small monochrome screen. This makes navigation easier (although, as is generally the case with this market segment, it's still not a dream, thanks to the simplistic folder structure) and adds something to the look of the thing, which is important in a gadget.
More intriguingly, there's a speaker built into the back of the Creative Zen Stone Plus. Which is rather exciting. Admittedly, this isn't the most powerful speaker in the world – a block party is probably out of the question, what with the shortage of bass oomph – but it's still nice to have for light picnic accompaniment. (Or annoying grown-ups on the bus, more likely.)
The rest of the Creative Zen Stone Plus package is thoroughly respectable: 2GB capacity (a decent complement, and possibly too large a volume of music to be relying on such a basic navigational structure); USB 2.0 connectivity; FM radio; voice recording; dedicated volume buttons. The claimed battery life is an excellent 20 hours, comparing favourably with the iPod shuffle's 12 hours.
NEXT PAGE: audio quality, uploading songs, down sides