Singapore-based Creative may be struggling to compete with the likes of iPod touch or Zune but they surely have created a name when it comes to the value for money priced music players that belong to the ZEN series. The first ZEN device came in 2007 and since then, Creative has rolled out many more to target the entry-level and mid-range audio player market.
The recent addition to the ZEN portfolio is ZEN X-Fi Style. The ZEN X-Fi Style may not be superior to the X-Fi2 but it promises to give decent features at an affordable price.
The ZEN X-Fi Style package consists of the player unit; one set of earphones, USB cable and bunch of papers like a user manual and warranty info.
We assume Creative designed the ZEN X-Fi Style similar to previous-gen ZEN players to maintain uniformity amongst the range. It’s really tough to distinguish the ZEN X-Fi Style from other ZEN players and has similar component placements like the screen on placed on the left hand side with D-Pad, menu, and play/pause etc. keys taking the right side.
The top-side is taken by the power button and mic; bottom-side with the reset; and right-hand side with a 3.5mm headphone/TV-out jack and mini-USB port.
Display and User Interface:
Unlike the X-Fi2, the X-Fi Style’s display drops the touchscreen functionality. X-Fi Style sports a 2.4-inch 262K color TFT LCD supporting up to 320×240 pixels resolution. Agreed, the screen and the resolution are not sharp by today’s standards but are acceptable at the price at which the player goes.
The physical design is not the only thing same. Creative has adopted the same user interface, which if you’ve used any ZEN player before, will know what I’m talking about. Although the UI is easy to pick up for first-time users, I feel Creative could have worked a bit on the UI front to make it more intuitive.
Sound is the most important criteria for any portable media player and thankfully, ZEN X-Fi Style doesn’t disappoint. The heart of the audio technology in the player is Creative’s X-Fi technology. Creative’s been integrating this audio enhancing tech for quite some time and it does come handy. Users can tweak the Crystalizer and Expand X-Fi effects in addition to the 8 EQ presets. As far as audio quality goes, with X-Fi activated, it’s pretty good on the earphones as well as integrated loudspeaker. The loudspeakers aren’t that loud but decent enough to be audible in a small room. On the format front, the ZEN X-Fi Style supports MP3, WMA, WAV, FLAC and AAC audio formats.
ZEN X-Fi Style has the ability to play DivX, Xvid (in addition to WMV and MPEG-4) files without any conversion. However, with a 2.4-inch screen, they just look too small. Mobile phones today feature larger screen than this. Videos play nicely but tend to pause for a few seconds if you try to fast forward a movie.
Creative has also added a TV-out support, so that you can hook it to the television set. However, the AV cable, outputs content in standard resolution and needs to be purchased separately.
Other handy features you’d find in the player are FM Radio, Voice Recorder and RSS feeds support. A user can save up to 32 FM Radio stations whereas a voice recorder will help users to take audio notes.
The RSS feeds support is a nice feature but I don’t think it’s really helpful considering a user needs to first sync the feeds with a PC to read it on the player.
X-Fi Style has a Li-Ion battery that promises to give up to 25 hours of continuous audio playback or 5 hours of video playback. In real world tests, the player gave about 18 hours of audio and 2.5 hours of video on a single charge, which is still good.
So is the player worth your money? X-Fi Style’s comes in 8GB and 16GB capacities with the price starting from Rs. 7,000. Now if we compare this with the iPod Nano, you save at least Rs. 3,700 for the same storage capacity. Of course, you won’t get the touchscreen functionality or compactness of the iPod Nano but you get more bang for your buck with features like DivX playback, larger screen and X-Fi technology.
Pros: Simple UI, Wide multimedia format support, Affordable
Cons: No expandable storage, Small screen