Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Creative Zen X-Fi2 Review

Review of Creative Zen X-Fi2 music player

Summary: Sounds excellent, navigation needs improvement

Pros: Sound quality, X-Fi feature, EP-630 earphones, plug 'n' play, S-video out
Cons: Navigation menus, Rigid touch screen, no video playlists, no volume control button

Overall Rating: 4/5
Quality of sound: 4.5/5
Quality of video: 4/5
Touch screen: 3/5
Menu navigation: 3/5

Detailed review:

I have been using Creative Zen X-Fi2 for more than 2 months now. I listen at least 1-2 hours daily while commuting and whenever I get bored.

Sound quality:
I bought this after months of research on various personal media players (PMP) in the market and was not disappointed with the sound quality. I have used Sansa Fuze, Apple iPod Nano and Creative Zen for considerable period. In addition to these players, I listened to songs a few times on Apple iPhone, iTouch Classic, Sony S-series player, Microsoft Zune and Nokia N-series. I would rate Creative Zen on par with my Nokia Ngage 3300 series phone. The high-quality EP-630 earphones too make a difference. And the X-Fi feature rocks!

Video quality:
Although the player is supposed to support MP4, I could play only WMV. The default supplied software is useless not only for video conversion, but for everything, including song/video management. I use RealPlayer's free media converter in Windows Vista. This is the best I found in my online research. I wish they release a version soon for Ubuntu.

Touch screen:
The touch screen was initially rigid, but the calibration had improved considerably since two firmware updates by the Creative. I do not face any issue, though I would not compare with iphone. I think most of the disgruntled users were using their thumbs as the general practice for most of the handheld devices. Try using index finger - it's a lot better.

Menu navigation:
Creative team should immediately pay attention to the menus. For performing a simple task of turn up/down volume, one has to first press home/power button, unlock the screen by dragging the bubble lock out of the screen, either wait for the song to appear afer few seconds or navigate to Music -> Now Playing, touch volume icon, then slide the bar up/down. The player surely does miss the special volume button that a normal Zen has.

Other features:

Video out: Though I got the audio-out working without issues, I failed to get the video-out to an LCD TV with an AV cable.
RSS feeds: Forget about this. This was one of the driving forces to buy this product - I dreamt of synchronizing my player every morning and read the feeds on the train to work. Phew! It takes at least an hour to sync 10 feeds and it strips the whole format so that it would be like reading a raw text file on Notepad.

Random play: The random algorithm needs some tweaking - For me it always repeats the 20 each from the top and bottom and a few from middle, though I have more than 800 songs on my playlist and I choose "Shuffle without repeat".

Applications: This is one of the exciting things about this player - they provide a development kit using which interested developers can create applications. The language used is Lua, which is also used by Adobe's Photoshop Lightroom and World of Warcraft. By default, Creative supplies Sudoku and Pushbox games.

I recommend Creative Zen X-Fi2 for pristine music listening experience, not thinking about the touch-screen, applications and RSS packages. Without this extra baggage and forgetting X-Fi crystallizer, Creative Zen is a cheaper alternative. People looking for a gadget as multi-purpose can go for Apple products or other options.

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