Zen X-Fi: finally, something promising from Creative

July 11th, 2008 | by Alfred Siew

On the face of it – a rather “thin” face of it – Creative seems to have finally come up with a solid MP3 player with its Zen X-Fi.

This little gizmo is slim at just 12.8mm (a few credit cards thick) and should fit into the pocket well. Yet it has most of what the pricier – and longer – Apple iPod Touch has and more.

Wi-Fi? Check. Video playback (including DivX and WMV)? Check. SD card slot for additional expansion? Check.

Wait, there’s also built-in FM and a microphone, so it should come in handy for recording meetings and, for us reporters, for recording what interviewees say (and later deny!).

Best of all, the price is right. Creative’s online store is selling the 32GB version for S$399 – that’s less than the S$848 what Apple asks for its 32GB iPod Touch.

With such capacities, there’s finally enough capacity for the whopping 20+GB of music that is quickly expanding on my PC, thanks mainly to my encoding stuff in WAV instead of MP3 these days.

I’ve always said MP3 players, unlike computers, are lifestyle products and Apple’s done a better job with them than a “PC” company like Creative. But would you pay twice as much for a player with less stuff just to look cool?

I know I didn’t buy a Sony Walkman or Discman just because it’s Sony in the past – I bought an Aiwa or Panasonic that played (mostly) just as well. Now, after two iPods, maybe it’s time for me to consider Creative seriously.

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14 Comments

  1. what i do like about the toyota corolla is its standard safety features,:*

  2. Ella Walker says:

    my dream car is the Ford GT. that car is truly a muscle car with lots of horsepower.~;

  3. Zoe Murphy says:

    My dream car is the Porsche 911 or the new Nissan GTR. those cars are really great.””

  4. CAPMMX says:

    If someone is actually willing to pay twice as much for a “sleek” looking Mp3 player with less features, they need to go and buy a Mac computer, a $150 pair of shoes and finish it off by doing a little shopping at WalMart. The fact that everyone will join the fad bandwagon just to have cool looking gadgets shows how little people think for themselves these days. Start thinking about the quality of your products rather than how your friends and that girl you like will think about it.

    Creative makes sound cards for a living, ergo, their Mp3 players are more likely to have better sound. The purpose for Mp3 Players is, believe it or not, to listen to music and in this case, the X-Fi sound technology lives up to its name.

    So if anyone from creative just happen to be reading this, nicely done and remember: Quality Player over “Sleek” Design

  5. xtrocious says:

    Ian Tan – I stand corrected…hahah

    But seriously dude, does your Toyota Altis cause heads to turn when you drive pass?

    Or would the latest Lambo cause more of a stir, never mind the person is driving it at lawn mower speed?

  6. Chris says:

    Just wanted to point out that it isn’t a good idea to compare the iPod Classic, which uses a conventional hard drive, and the Zen X-Fi, which uses a solid-state drive (which Creative has completely transitioned to). A better benchmark would be the iPod Nano (Zen X-Fi has way more storage but same size) or iPod Touch (Zen X-Fi is less than half the price and a fraction of the weight, though no touchscreen).

    Another thing to note is that firmware revisions make a huge deal to sound quality, and Creative has just released a firmware update for the X-Fi. I haven’t tried it yet, but with the old firmware, the X-Fi sound enhancements worked well with jazz and folk (Coltrane, Feist) but distorted with rock (Muse, Dream Theater). With X-Fi enhancements turned off, the sound was fine, but several iPods all sounded better – less closed, with sparkling upper-mids and highs.

    Lastly, kudos to Creative for adding to different setting for the X-Fi crystallizer function, but if you want to upgrade your earphones, be careful not to choose a pair that’s naturally bright, such as many of the balanced-armature models (Shure, Creative Aurvana, Philips 9850) because that makes the X-Fi Crystallizer unusable.

    I’ll try and give an update after checking out the latest X-Fi firmware.

  7. Ian Tan says:

    My dream car is a Toyota Corolla Altis and I currently own one – with raging fuel prices, the fuel economy is great. And because every other dude in SG owns one, nobody is itching to scratch your car!

    Ok, but seriously, I do fantasise about Celicas.

  8. xtrocious says:

    Where’s the touchscreen Creative?

    This is where I think the design team is not in touch with the latest trend…

    And they also got to remember that Creative is now selling to a consumer market – people now buy things to project an image – never mind if there are less features…

    Take for example – cars…

    Yes, a Toyota is probably more practical than a Ferrari and probably better to drive and all…cost a hell a lot less as well

    But seriously now, tell me how many people’s dream car is a Toyota?

  9. Alfred Siew says:

    Yo PC! hows it going? Yes, it’s true Creative’s interface takes a little getting used to, but the price sure is attractive!

  10. PC says:

    Hello Alfie

    Ho say boh?
    PC lah. I have the Neeon Zen and the Stone. I have no complaints with the audio quality of Creative MP3 products (I know the Stone sounds bad, but what do u expect for $99? yifenqianyifenhuo right?) but the problem with them is interface design. The Zen’s jog which requires u to turn, hold and press in minute measured amounts require some finger calisthenics. If like uncle your fingers tremble due to excitement…it’s very ‘cham’ and it may take a while before you can start playing “She blinded me with Science”. Maybe you have to “limber up” with some finger exercises before tuning.

  11. Albert says:

    A $400 iPod has 80GB capacity and that’s the “smallest” capacity for a full size iPod. Considering the fact that Creative is packing this player for video playback (huge file sizes), the storage department is a tad too small.

    I agree with Jonathan, Creative should stop trying catch up with Apple to be the iPod killer. They have good niche as an all-in-one media player and should strive to be one without comparing with the king of music player.

  12. It is exactly these gadgets are lifestyle products that companies should pay alot more in investing time and money creating that experience and branding. It is not how big you are but how remarkable you are.

    And stop being a iPod killer, rather, be a Zen killer. You don’t have to create many mp3 models with all sorts of fill-ups. Create one remarkable model albeit with strong marketing blitz. I wouldn’t have known this model exist upfront if not for the rss feed. Lots of people do want to pay more to look cool and iPod does work remarkably and reliable too.

  13. billy teo says:

    Yo Mr Siew,

    I would rather Creative give up the ghost and prepare a more spirited challenge to the Apple hegemon.

    How about pitching a device like the Creative Zen GeTai (Graphically Equalised Tenor Acoustics In-Tuner) that helps people sing better so that karaoke pubs don’t sound like hell frozen over.

    Plus, X-Fi technology in the GeTai ought to help people sing haunting tunes well enough to wake the dead.

    Also, Creative can then start an iTunes challenger that sells classic tunes not found on iTunes, e.g. “Ai Pia Jia Eh Yia” and other classic selections from the Hougang Hokkien ‘Ho Say’ Hot Hits compilation.

    And maybe rope in Royston Tan to direct the TV ads, if Creative wants to panda to the consumer market.

    That’s my humble Zen vision : )

  14. acroamatic says:

    Actually, I would pay twice as much for a player with less to look cool. This is precisely Creative’s problem – packing in as many things in as possible at a low price.

    On the face of it, the X-Fi looks a lot nicer than their previous products though. Yet, I still have my doubts. The interface looks cluttered (so many buttons!). Also, I’m not sure how easy this will sync with PCs and Macs (if at all). Creative’s software is not the easiest to use. My siblings both started with Creative mp3 products. Now, both have switched to iPods.

    Finally, there is build quality. Nearly every person I know who has owned a Creative mp3 player has been driven to madness because those things will end up in the service centre sooner rather than later.

    All these examples anecdotal, of course. =) Creative may well prove my observations wrong with this one. I’m very happy with my iPod nano.

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