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.
I got an invite to check out the new beta software package called ZiiLife. It appears to take on Skype with VoIP taking center stage. In fact the first thing you are greeted with is an option to buy a 3 month beta plan package for $7.95 that includes 360 min of global talk time. This package also includes unlimited 1 to 1 (assuming that video conferencing would be extra) and 1GB of cloud storage. The other option is the free plan in which you can buy credits to call for as low as 2.1 cents per min, unlimited 1 to 1 video calls, and 200 MB of cloud storage.
I always look forward to Creative’s booth at CES since its usually pretty over the top. This year Creative’s showing was very weak, though its not something specific to Creative, it was the general story for many manufactures of all types of gadgets at CES 2010. We may be on our way out of this recession, but the device industry still has a bit of a hangover.
So this year there were not sections of air crafts, videos projected on walls of smoke, or even a booth full of Creative babes- just a few showing off the Vado HD camcorders.
There was however one little bit of tech interesting to the whole Zii EGG story- the ZiiSound D5 and D3. The latter being the one for the Zii EGG. This little sound dock is equipt with Bluetooth for any Bluetooth enable device but also contains a dock for the Zii EGG. I didn’t get a chance to hear it on the noisy show floor, but considering some of their other stuff it should be at least good. It should hit the stores sometime in the beginning of 2010.
Today Creative Zii Labs released the first Android firmware for the Creative Zii EGG based on Android version 1.6. The firmware is very beta and really only for the developers to start working on the OS for the Zii EGG. The basic Android applications are there but some things like the camera are still not working. Also, some elements of a phone are present such as 2G options and signal strength icon are still present, so Android still needs to be cleaned up and targeted to the specificly to the Zii EGG. Android marketplace was not available but I was able to download and install AndAppstore and successfully install applications from that app library.
Even though it is still very rough around the edges and far from a consumer ready device it is exciting to see progress. Still no word on when this device will launch for the consumer market, but don’t hold your breath since I would guess that date to be well into 2010 considering the current state of firmwares.
Below is a video demo of the Zii EGG Android in action.
Creative started shipping the dev edition of the Zii EGG. From a few hours of browsing though the OS is feels like it is a long way from the consumer market. In fact recently the SDK roadmap outlining the various functionality of the Zii EGG appeared on Engadget showing a few months ahead.
Below is a few photos of the video preview of the hardware and a quick and dirty look at the Plaszma OS. I stress this several times in the video that this is a developer edition so you cannot judge the OS yet- it is very rough.
The hardware is what you would expect from Creative and the Zii EGG has a build quality similar to the Zen X-Fi or Zen (Newer version)- it feels plastiy and toy like but is still well made and rugged. The only thing that really bothers me and i hope that this gets changed is the screen material. I haven’t dug too far into it but it appears to be a similar screen to the Zen plastic with a plastic film on top with a really bad glare- definitely low end materials. The screen is a glass composite. I was wrong in that the plastic film is removable unlike the Zen.
As I dig into it more I will share more thoughts and videos. In the mean time check out the video and pics below and stop in our Creative Zii EGG forum for discussion.
Creative has selected Opera as the default browser for their Plaszma OS powering the upcoming Zii EGG. One of the reasons they have chosen Opera was for its “Web application” platform to make it easier for developers to jump right in. This is what Archos did with their last generation of devices such as the Archos 5. Honestly, the web applications for Opera in the Archos 5 were far from impressive; however, it could have been from the lack of developer interest.
Keep in mind that they are only talking about the Plaszma OS and that the Zii EGG is wide open to other OSes such as Android. Partners can still select whatever browser or OS they want and brand it accordingly.
We saw the Zii Egg pass though the FCC a few weeks ago and today Creative has unveiled the Zii Egg development platform. While the Zii EGG is a finished product it is not quite ready for the consumer market. Creative is banking on developers to build applications and entire user experiences out of the Zii EGG hardware though Android and their own Linux based OS dubbed Plaszma. One of the big differences being that the Plaszma OS takes advantage of the Zii chips cell architecture.
It will be interesting to see how other mp3 player manufactures respond to this with similar “phone like” platforms. Archos has been moving in that direction and Samsung might be too with the M1 or a non 3G version of an Omnia. It will be interesting to see who is going to follow this path. Will we see SanDisk get into the fray? Sony? Cowon? How much of an OS will the Zune HD be? These are definitely some exciting times for the portable media industry.
The device is extremely well equipped with everything a high end smart phone has minus the cellular connection: 3.5” 320×480 16m color screen, 10 point multi touch capacitance, 1080p output, HD camera, front facing VGA camera, 3-axis accelerometer, wi-fi, GPS, light sensor, full size SDHC slot.
Creative has been quiet since the release of the less than well received Zen X-Fi. At CES 2009 Creative only showed signs of a new player in the form of a bunch of reference demos of their upcoming Zii chip. Here is a good overview of the Zii at CES 2009 if you missed it. This chip promises HD video playback at minimum power usage.
The Zii EGG (model NSC-FL02) looks like it will be the first player to use the Zii chip. Pulling the info from the FCC’s site and digging though the documents what we do know about this player so far is that it will have an “HD camera” (Thought we don’t know if this is 720 or 1080- likely the former), Bluetooth, touch screen, and Wi-Fi (802.11 B/g). Only speculating based on the FCC diagram, it looks like it could also have an SD card slot.
A few years ago Creative tried to pull something like this off after the launch of the Zen Vision:M but could not technically pull it off- technologies were just not mature enough. With the Zii coming to fruition it looks like they will be able to do some pretty cool things with the Zii EGG. Based on product cycles and a few surveys I have received from Creative recently I would guess that this device is right around the corner shipping before the holiday shopping season around the same time as the Zune HD.
I have been skeptical about how revolutionary the Creative Zii platform actually is since Creative has a history or over hyping products. I also don’t hear anyone else talking about it other than Creative- more is being said about Nvidia’s Tegra chip within the circle of industry insiders and device manufactures. Perhaps the Zii has not been out long enough for it to sink in, but it the way Creative is talking about it seems like more people should care. While I still hold a healthy bit of skepticism, I have warmed up having seen the Zii chips in action at CES.
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.