Archive: Portable Audio and Video Players (2004-2009)

REVIEW / Creative Zen X-FI 2 16 GB

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Tristan François Published on February 2, 2010
Updated on February 2, 2010
Translated by
 
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SPECIFICATIONS

  • Screen 3 cm
  • Screen Resolution / Colours NC pixels / 262 144
  • Storage 16
  • Dimensions/Weight 102 x 57 x 11.6 mm / 70 g
  • Battery 25 h music / 5 h video
  • File formats supported AAC, FLAC, MP3, WAV, WMA, WMV, MPEG, Xvid
The Zen has always been a great audio player, but after the first version of the X-Fi began to struggle, we were left wondering if it had a future at all.  It's back, though, with a new touchscreen interface.

Handling: is that an X-Fi?

The X-Fi 2 didn't benefit from a makeover along the way: it looks as if Creative took an X-Fi, removed the physical buttons and swapped in a touchscreen display.  The controls haven't changed much, and the traditional buttons that we were used to weren't any less useful than this ropey touchscreen interface.  The X-Fi 2 is the same size as its predecessor, and remains a fairly compact device--but some of Creative's innovations are really very odd. 

One interesting addition is the RSS reader that the manufacturer has built into this second version of the X-Fi.  It would have been a perfectly good idea--if they hadn't got rid of the WiFi, which they did.  Keeping your feeds up to date over USB is a real treat, let me tell you.  Adding a microSD slot is another good idea in theory, but you have to follow SanDisk's model and do it properly, which Creative hasn't.

Audio and Video

We have no new comments on the audio quality: Creative really does know what it's doing here.  Although the sound is crystal clear and neutral, we wonder why Creative still ships the EP-630 headphones.  These in-ear headphones had their day in the sun, but it's time to move on now; consumers know that better options are available elsewhere and for not very much more money.

There's not much to add about the support for audio formats, and we're pleased to see Ogg, FLAC and AAC all there, although APE would be welcome too.  MPEG, WMV and Xvid are available for video.  We would have been more impressed with some more up-to-date codecs, but then again, we know that the X-Fi 2, just like its predecessor, isn't really designed for watching videos.

There's nothing really that new about the new X-Fi 2, and the only new feature Creative has added is a touchscreen interface which makes it harder to use than its predecessor.  Only the audio quality and 25 hours of battery life help it make some ground, but it's time for Creative to catch up with the competition.  The Zii maybe? 
Terrible Touchscreen
That might sound like a rather provocative title, but it's true: we don't think touchscreen interfaces are useful on audio players.

While you might have a larger multimedia player in your hands the whole time to surf the web or watch a video, an audio player like this is much more likely to be stashed inside a pocket. It's much better to be able to adjust the volume, start and stop tracks and so on without having to look at the screen.

Touchscreen interfaces are very intuitive, of course, and make navigating throughout a large music collection. But they should always include an alternative to onscreen access, too.

PROS

  • Superior audio quality
  • Good battery life
  • Formats supported

CONS

  • Entirely touchscreen interface
  • EP-630 headphones a little old
  • No more WiFi: RSS reader a little redundant

CONCLUSION 3/5

The X-Fi 2 doesn't improve much on the original X-Fi, and even takes some interesting elements away. Fortunately, its predecessor was pretty decent to start with so it's not an absolute disaster, but Creative really needs to try harder.
3 Creative Zen X-FI 2 16 GB DigitalVersus 2010-02-02 00:00:00
Compare: Creative Zen X-FI 2 16 GB to its competitors
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