Creative unveiled their newest player, the Zen X-Fi3, at IFA Berlin. Resembling the ‘brick’ design of the iriver Clix or Cowon D2, it’s quite a departure from the looks of the older X-Fi and X-Fi2.
Being a bit late to the dying touch interface fad, Creative put some resistive touch buttons around the 2″ TFT screen, but luckily they didn’t forget about proper tactile buttons for volume control. Same as the older X-Fi models, the X-Fi3 comes with a MicroSDHC slot, making it possible to boost the internal 8/16GB capacity with an additional 32GB of storage space. The biggest complaint about Creative’s SD implementation in older players was that files on the card weren’t integrated into the database at all, they were only available via folder browsing. Time will tell if Creative fixed that flaw in the X-Fi3. Battery life isn’t overly great with a claimed 20 hours for audio and 5 hours for video, but it’s not too shabby either.
On the software side, the X-Fi3 is quite interesting. The best feature for sure is Apt-X Bluetooth audio connectivity. Apt-X can be either lossy (384kbps) or lossless (up to 24/96) – both being vastly superior sounding compared to regular A2DP audio and transparent to most people’s ears. Creative also added FLAC support to the usual array of audio codecs (MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV, Audible). For video it supports standard definition AVI/DivX/Xvid and WMV. Of course they’re also continuing to push their X-Fi Crystalizer sound enhancement technology. While it can’t really compete with Cowon’s BBE or Sony’s DSEE, it probably is better than nothing. FM radio, a speaker on the back, video-out (analog) and a voice recorder are present as well.
Pocketables, one of our sister sites, is celebrating its belated arrival on Facebook by giving away one of these compact players.
All you have to do for a chance at scoring this device, which sports a 2.4-inch display, A/V out, FLAC support, built-in speaker, FM radio, and X-Fi audio enhancements, is to hit the Like button on the social network and wait until July 25th to find out if you’re the winner. Good luck!
The MP3 player market is diminishing every day, and players either have to go all out with tablet-like specs or be small enough to be accidentally swallowed to stand out these days. The new Zen Style M300 from Creative falls into the latter category, with a player that builds around a 1.45″ LCD screen. Small doesn’t mean useless though (as the Sansa Clip series clearly demonstrated), and Creative has really tried to be…eh…creative here with the features. Aside from a very respectable 20 hour battery life and capscities up to 16GB, it also has a microSDHC card slot, making it possible to add up to 32GB of extra memory.
The feature list also includes Bluetooth 2.1, meaning that you can use wireless headphones. If you don’t need Bluetooth, the M100 version will save you a bit of money- though it only goes to 8GB. With the 16GB M300 being priced at $90 and the 4GB M100 at $40, these players are decently priced in any case. If you can live with a limited MP3, WAV and WMA codec support, you can get a very capable yet small 4-48GB player here.The players will be available in June, in 4 different colors.
Forum member godbes was courageous enough to order a 128GB solid-state drive for his venerable Creative Zen Vision:M shot-in-the-dark style – for € 370. Not being sure if the fancy SSD actually worked as a replacement for the 1.8″ HDD with the rather dated hardware in the player, one can imagine how he felt before the story turned out to have a happy end after all. Who dares wins – in this case, probably the biggest, fastest ZV:M to date, with twice the capacity of the beefiest flash memory players available to date.
Similar to the Cowon X5 or the iriver H100/H300, the Creative ZV:M still has a cult following among dedicated users, despite not being Rockbox-able or otherwise overly future-proof. Many people still think it’s the best player Creative ever made, and everything after it wasn’t quite up to expectations. Be that as it may, those were the heydays for portable hard disk players, right before flash memory took over the mainstream with faster bootup and access speeds, slimmer form factors, and improved durability due to no sensitive movable parts – yet at the cost of much smaller capacities and higher prices.
Seems godbes gapped the bridge from the past to the present quite nicely – it’s definitely not a cheap mod, but it’s way cool and encouraging what one can do with presumed ‘obsolete’ hardware.
In a device world where many are lining up behind app stores and music players on phones are taking a portion of the portable audio market, the dedicated MP3 player is far from dead. 2010 was a little bit of a slow year but some really interesting shifts towards these App centric non phone media players is happening. We got a little taste of it this year but will see a lot more of it for 2011.
As for 2010, here are there players that were at the top for 2010. Continue reading…
The ZiiSound D5 is Creative’s flag ship compact speaker system and centered around Bluetooth audio. I have tended to shy away from Bluetooth audio devices since most of the devices I have tried came up pretty short in terms of sound quality. In short, the ZiiSound D5 has changed my opinion and showed me that if done right, Bluetooth can rival wired or docked performance.
A few days ago the talented hackers on ZuneBoards created “OpenZDK” that will allow programming of 3D games and applications- something that XNA would not allow on the Zune HD. So what would be the first logial 3D game to port to the Zune HD? …Doom of course.
Once upon a time, there was a brand called Creative that made good media players that people were proud to own. Then something apparently happened, because they don’t anymore. Every single Creative player for the last 3 years has been so incredibly underwhelming that there’s a fair chance you might fall asleep half way through the press releases. The latest Creative players are just more of the same old outdated recipe, in a slightly different shape.
The Zen Style is basically the Mozaic, but with a slightly different look. It has the same 1.8″ 128×160 display, up to 32 hours of battery life, and up to 16GB of storage. There’s also a version with a FM radio and speaker. The Zen Z-Fi style is basically a merger of the Zen and the Zen X-fi, putting the latter in the former’s body and rounding off a few corners here and there to make it look new. It has a FM radio, speaker, up to 25 hours of battery for audio and 5 for video, up to 32GB of storage, a 2.4″ 320×240 display, TV out and Creatives own X-fi sound “enhancement”. They dropped the WiFi on this one, which I doubt anyone is going to miss considering how it was implemented and used. The new models will be available from the end of April for $109-$249.
Update 4/14/2010: Creative contacted me on their own accord shortly after this article was posted to get a list of the developers they offended. As a token of their appreciation Creative sent these devs some Auravana In-Ear2 headphones and a wireless bluetooth speaker system- the Inspire S2. So a speacial thanks to Creative from ABI and the developers for making good on this issue!
There is a great group of developers in our forum programming new applications for the Creative Zen X-Fi2. To date they have created 36 applications that range from simple sound boards to solitary to the classic pong.
In a recent advertisement sent out via email, Creative pictured and touted these member created applications as “NEW enhanced features!” without crediting its creators whatsoever. Most developers have mixed emotions as our X-Fi2 Development Moderator, Habhome stated: “It’s both an honor and a bit of a let-down. They could’ve asked before.”. I tend to agree, it’s fantastic that Creative is paying attention to the community but a big disappointment that there is no dialog or acknowledgment of their hard work.
So Creative, step up and recognize who is creating “NEW enhanced features!” to your products. It’s the right thing to do. It also wouldn’t hurt to throw a Creative swag bag and an apology to these truly creative developers.
While creative is taking small steps with the ZiiEGG development they have not forgotten about their other flag ship in the Zen series, the X-Fi2. The ADK can be downloaded now and comes with a Zen X-Fi2 simulator, programmers guide, and an API reference. The scripting language for the Zen X-Fi2 is based on Lua. Lua is a lightweight scription language that seems to be catching on. It has been used in places like Adobe’s Lightroom and World of Warcraft.
If you are interested in learning more about Lua, check out their site. If you would like to dive in and start programming for the X-Fi2, a developer group has started in the X-Fi2 Application Development Forums.
The Clip+ has a fantastic little form factor; somewhat cheap in build quality but very rugged. The interface is simple and relatively straightforward. The features on the Clip are more or less average, however it supports the alternative Rockbox firmware which provides tons of additional options (gapless playback, Replaygain, playlists, Last.fm scrobbling, etc). Read the full review or go ahead and buy it.
The J3 is a fantastic PMP with a very nice AMOLED screen and tons of features. It sports Cowon's trademark BBE sound enhancements, and offers a customizable user interface with strong support by our user community. You can usually find it at Amazon for the best price - and don't forget to check out our review.
Microsoft Zune HD
Sure, many of us are not big fans of the walled garden, but there are a lot of great things going on with the Zune: sturdy hardware, ultra easy to use user interface, and a media player that is worthy of Editor’s Choice. You can check out our Zune HD review or stop by our Zune forums for the latest info and gossip.
Phonak Audéo PFE
Phonak Audéo PFE offer outstanding clarity and precision; natural, dynamic mids and treble, and decent bass for a single armature in-ear phone. They handle dense, complex music very well. The PFE work well with most acoustic and some electronic music genres, but bassheads might have to look at other alternatives. They're great for sports as well, since they fit very securely. Check out our review.
The Hippo VB (Variable Bass) offers a serious subwoofer for on the go, right in your head. They don’t just deliver generous quantities of punchy, textured bass, but good audio quality over the whole frequency range with decent clarity and exceptional soundstage. Exchangeable bass ports let you customize their sound to your liking. Read our in-depth Hippo VB review.
Soundmagic E10 / E30
The Soundmagic E10 and E30 are basically right in the middle between the Phonak PFE and Hippo VB - not too analytical sounding, not too bass heavy. The E10 provide a bit more bass, the E30 a bit more clarity. Both come with a very fair price tag considering the sound quality they deliver - a great choice for the audio aficionado on a budget. Read our E10 and E30 reviews for more info.