After the launch of the forerunner, the Creative Zen Stone, the folks at Creative decided it was time to provide another flavor for consumers to consider. The new addition is a modified version, fittingly named the Creative Zen Stone Plus, where "Plus" basically refers to having more memory and an addition of a screen that was previously unavailable on its predecessor.
By upping the onboard flash memory to 2GB and inserting an OLED screen, Creative hopes the new Creative Zen Stone Plus will be an even bigger hit than the original which, apart from its diminutive size, was mostly criticized for the absence of a screen that severely limited playback control. Now with these improvements made, consumers (joggers especially) would be sitting up and giving the Creative Zen Stone Plus the attention it rightfully deserves.
Though no bigger than a small pebble, Creative managed to squeeze in a stopwatch, FM radio, voice recording, equalizer adjustments, and even a clock (complete with data display). Without a doubt, this immediately gives the Creative Zen Stone Plus an edge when compared to another ultra lightweight player we reviewed recently, the SanDisk Sansa Express.
With the exception of the Play/Pause button, controls on the Creative Zen Stone Plus remain largely unchanged from the older model; they're neatly grouped together for easy access. On the flank north of the display are a quick record button and a built-in microphone. Students who are not fast writers will find the recording function very useful and the recording quality to be clear for keeping track of lectures. Recorded clips can be transferred out just as easily as loading songs into the player via the onboard USB 2.0 mini jack, which means the Creative Zen Stone Plus can also double as a 2GB flash drive.
A total of 32 slots are available for storing FM radio stations, allowing the Creative Zen Stone Plus to continue offering music enjoyment for you at times when you want a change from tunes you loaded. The downside to it is a rather poor radio reception that was fuzzy and prone to interference in our test.
Despite that, the Creative Zen Stone Plus ranks high when all its features are considered, and picking out one should be easy since it's available in six eye catching colors. However, because of its glossy exterior, the Creative Zen Stone Plus is very susceptible to scratches, so extra care will have to be applied to keep it looking shiny and new.
With the player itself already attractive in design and functionality, what more can be done to make it even more appealing? The answer is accessories and consumers, particularly active individuals, can expect wristband case with clip, and keychain to secure the Creative Zen Stone Plus in place while keeping fit. You may also consider getting the Creative Zen Stone portable speaker system for enjoying music in a social setting such as playing board games, picnic, bbq and the likes.
Finally, we timed the battery life of the Creative Zen Stone Plus to be a half hour shorter than the Creative Zen Stone, which is just about right granted it now has a screen to feed power to. Unfortunately, for all its good points so far, the new Creative Zen Stone Plus does not have the option for users to skip folders. This means that unless the 'random' function is used, playback of songs will be done alphabetically in the order of folder first followed by song titles. Unwise decision to say the least considering the Creative Zen Stone Plus is able to store more songs than the 1GB Creative Zen Stone. We couldn't help but feel that Creative had made a mistake by not retaining the 'skip folder' function.
The Zen Stone Plus has proven to be a music player of choice in the areas of size, function and design. As far as we're concerned, it outshines the iPod shuffle (second generation) in terms of price, usability and simply by having a screen!
All in all, Creative has produced yet another impressive music player for the Zen line. It's just a pity that it no longer allows users to skip folders.