Creative launched its Zen PMP with the much touted X-Fi technology. X-Fi, short for Xtreme Fidelity is a proprietary technology of Creative for enhancing the audio quality. We thought to give it a spin and see if it really does what it claims.
Creative ZEN X-Fi
EP-830 in-ear earphones
Mini-CD Software Installation
Quick start leaflet
USB 2.0 cable
Size: 83mm x 55mm x 12.8mm
LCD: 2.5″ 16.7 million color TFT LCD (320 x 240 pixels)
Battery Type & Life: Li-ion – Up to 36hrs audio playtime; Up to 5hrs video playtime
Video Playback Formats: WMV9 MPEG4, DivX 4/5 and XviD
Audio Playback Formats: MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV and Audible 4
Photo Formats Supported: JPEG, (BMP, GIF, PNG, TIFF files will be converted)
FM Radio: 32 preset stations
EQ Settings: 8 presets and 5 band custom EQ
Zen X-Fi comes with three storage options. The base model starts with 8GB and raises the bar to 16GB and finally to 32GB.
Creative discriminates the basic model with the remaining ones. The 8GB model drops off Wi-Fi, depriving the user to enjoy wireless streaming of music as well as from instant messaging.
The player is smaller than a wallet and fits just right in your palms. The body is made up of plastic but does not give even a small nuance of cheap build quality. It is sturdy, classy and is graced by the silver chrome finish at the back.
The first thing you’ll notice on the face of Zen X-Fi are the number of buttons. There are in all 13 buttons on the front while the start-hold button is placed on the backside. The sheer number of it can confuse you but once you adapt to it, the side four buttons from the 9 can be easily avoided limiting the use of the keypad as a D-pad. Another thing you wouldn’t want is wipe it a number of times before showing it to your friends . Yes it’s a fingerprint magnet.
The placements of the important things are as follows: headphone jack, reset button, mini USB port are located on the right with the loudspeaker placed on the bottom and SD card slot and microphone on the upper side. The Power/Hold switch is placed on the back.
Zen X-Fi has the usual Zen UI which is easy, intuitive and almost the same if you’ve used any of the previous version Zens. The menus look great on its 2.5” QVGA screen and are highly customizable. By customizing I mean, that the menu items can be added or subtracted as per the user’s liking. For instance, user can make “FM Radio” to be listed in the front or make it disappear altogether.
Zen X-Fi supports only MTP mode. This means the only official OS supported is Windows. Drag-and-Drop feature will work on updated versions of Windows OS. However, everything’s not hunky dory. You need to take special care if you’re uploading videos onto the player. The reason for that is, it supports varied formats but not varied resolution. The uploaded video must be of the supported resolution (320 x 240 pixels) only or else it won’t play. If you wanna avoid wasting some of your precious time, I would recommend installing Creative Centrale software which will take care of all the duties, right from transcoding multimedia content to syncing it.
Here comes the most important part. So how well does the audio sound? The music is not out of the world but yea, it sounds better. The bundled EP-830 premium earphones (valued at Rs. 2460; $55) and X-Fi make a great combination. X-Fi mode can be accessed easily by hitting the top-right button while playing a song. The X-Fi Crystalizer helps to restore the some audio elements which were lost during compression and X-Fi Expand tries to enhance the vocals of the song. There are also 8 equalizer presets to choose from.
Adding speakers to a player is great but it doesn’t add up more charm. The sound is crisp and clear but a little noise in the room can make the speakers ineffective. In short, the speakers are not that powerful.
The videos are only playable if they are ripped with the correct resolution. And after doing all the things right, you won’t be left disappointed. The videos work smoothly and there’s nothing to complain over here.
Creative has also integrated FM Radio and PIM functions to entice the users. 32 FM stations can be saved and things like contacts and task list need the help of Creative Centrale to work with the player.
The battery life varies according to a number of parameters like screen brightness, bitrates of the songs and so on. I got around 17 hours of playback with about 2 hours of video.
This is a real dampener. The Indian price of Zen X-Fi (8GB) is Rs. 13,599 ($298). That’s way too much when shelling out couple of thousand bucks more, you can get an iPod Touch or a high capacity iPod Classic which has a lower price tag. A direct comparison to the US price is not we are looking at, but if you’re still interested than you would want to know that the 32GB Zen X-Fi price in US is cheaper than the 8GB Zen X-Fi over here.
Creative has thrown something worthy in the market but the major deterrent which could hurt its sales is the price. It is one of the best devices to come out of Creative’s stable and though X-Fi may not be used up to its real potential, it is still worthy to be a good competitor.