The emergence of portable digital media players for use on the move has mainly centred on audio. But Microsoft has bigger ambitions with the launch of Portable Media Center: Why restrict yourself to just audio on the move when you could have video, recorded TV and photos as well?

As Microsoft is only producing the software, it’s up to third-party manufacturers to design devices around it. While Creative looks like it will be first to market with the Zen Portable Media Center, expect devices from Samsung and iRiver soon.

The PMC is incredibly easy to use. It starts almost instantly when you press the On button and, from there, you’re presented with a Start menu that will look familiar to users of Media Center. Then simply choose My TV, My Music, My Pictures or My Video and away you go.

If you enter My Music and choose an artist, the menu would then show all albums by that artist. If you want to choose a different artist, you simply navigate through those available by choosing left or right, rather than going back and choosing a new one.

PMC takes full advantage of the full-colour screen available – if you rip your music using Windows Media Player (WMP) and it recognises the CD, it will download the accompanying artwork.

But the biggest feature about PMC is TV and video on the move. When you transfer footage to the device in Windows Media Player, it’s automatically transcoded to a resolution and bit rate suitable for the device. This ensures that you can have a fair amount of content available on the player. By Microsoft’s estimations, a 20GB drive should be enough for 80 hours of video once it’s transcoded.

When you consider what the Zen PMC is capable of, it’s really not that big at 144x79x27mm. Having said that, the player is still a bit too big to carry around in your pocket.

  • Creative:
  • Price: £370 inc VAT

  • Good points: video on the move; easy to use; impressive battery life
  • Bad points: too big for most pockets; risky using in public

  • Build quality: 9/10
  • Features: 9/10
  • Value for money: 8/10

    For a full review of the Creative Zen Portable Media Center, see the November issue of PC Advisor, on sale now