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July 13, 2008

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Creative ZEN X-Fi review Part 1

July 11, 2008

Rumours of a Creative X-Fi player have been floating around since the middle of last year. But at every financial conference, Creative repeatedly delayed the release of the X-Fi player due to technical difficulties. The powerful X-Fi chip was simply too battery consuming to be placed into a portable device. While the engineers were coming up with a solution for this problem, Creative itself was under going a turbulent period of mid-life crisis. After several quarters of less-than-stellar financial results, Creative has been taking measures to cut cost, increase it’s profit margin and return to profitability. This included laying off workers, delisting from NASDAQ, closing down unprofitable subsidiaries, selling off a factory in Malaysia and – God bless our souls – putting up its headquarter in Singapore for sale.

As a long time supporter of the company, I prefer to see these actions as simply means to reinvent itself to stay relevant and more importantly, alive. Afterall, the PDE industry is a highly competitive one that is dominated by one major player. Apple’s iPod is still the number one selling player after all these years and efforts by other companies (way larger than Creative in every aspect) like Sony, Microsoft and Samsung to dethrone it have been unsuccessful. Therefore, Creative is not without its merit. Over the years, I’m glad that Creative has gotten off the high horse and eat the humble pie. From the days of annoucing a USD$100 million dollar advertising campaign to upset iPod till today where it is part of Apple’s Made For iPod programme, it is no doubt that Creative has came a long way. It revamped its websites, improved its product design, increased its advertising expenditure (and expand its retail outlets along the way), it seems like Creative has indeed been getting its act together.

Could the ZEN X-Fi be the product that bring Creative back to its glorious days? Let’s find out.

Creative ZEN X-Fi – The Sound of Perfection

The Creative ZEN X-Fi comes in one colour, three capacity (8GB, 16GB and 32GB) and in typical Creative fashion – two versions: one with Wireless Lan (the 16Gb and 32GB ones) and one without (8GB). I won’t exactly call the ZEN X-Fi a new player but rather a upgrade of the original ZEN. This upgrade consisit of an X-Fi enhancer, Wireless Lan, inbuilt speaker and six new buttons.

Other features of the ZEN X-Fi includes:

  • Capacity: 8, 16, and 32GB with SD expansion slot
  • Display: 2.5″ with 16.7 million colors and 320 x 240 resolution
  • Audio: MP3, WMA, AAC (unprotected), WAV, and Audible
  • Video: WMV, MPEG4-SP, Divx 4/5, Xvid, and MJPEG
  • Built-in X-Fi technology with two effects
  • Built-in Wi-Fi for instant messaging (Yahoo! and Windows Live!) and wireless streaming
  • FM Tuner and Voice Recorder
  • Built-in Speaker
  • Premium quality earphones included
  • Battery Life: 36 hours for Audio, 5 hours for Video
  • Dimensions: 83mm x 55mm x 12.8mm
  • Unboxing of the ZEN X-Fi

    The first impression I had of the packaging of the ZEN X-Fi was: “Wow!” Thanks to its new acrylic box packaging, the ZEN X-Fi does has this sohphisicated and minimalistic look that induced a wow-factor.

    Package Contents

  • Creative ZEN X-Fi
  • EP-830 in-ear earphones with 2 pairs of earbuds
  • Mini-CD Software Installation
  • Quick start leaflet
  • Wireless function quick guide
  • Cross-sell leaflet(s)
  • USB 2.0 cable
  • Form Factor

    As Creative have previously announced, it will no longer be manufacturing HDD player. This might upset many as I myself would have loved to see a 160GB ZEN. Creative cited reasons like falling flash prices, slimmer form factor and overall a more stable part (flash has got no moving parts, unlike HDD) for its decision to go flash. Therefore, like the ZEN, the ZEN X-Fi is credit card size and a little thicker than the ZEN (12.8mm v.s 11.3mm).

    The ZEN X-Fi has got a very sturdy feel to it. For the ZEN, I felt that it was too light and plastic-ky that makes it looks toy-like. However, the ZEN X-Fi is a bit heavier (in a good way) at 68.75g compared to the ZEN’s 65g, has a sleek metallic silver rim around the player and a silver chrome backing. No ripples at the back this time but overall, the player feels really good in the hand.

    One new feature of the ZEN X-Fi is the Wireless Lan. It enables you to chat on MSN and Yahoo! Messenger and also stream content over your home server. In replacement of the five-way tactile pad is 9 small round buttons. It works the way you text on your hand phone (Number 2 button represents “a”, “b” and “c”) for the instant messaging function while during normal player usage, the buttons 2, 4, 6 & 8 represents your up, left, right and down respectively. It’s rather idiot proof and you will get a hand of it instantly. However, the buttons might be too small for instant messaging, but more on that later.

    Creative have been pretty obsessed with built-in speakers recently (ZEN Wav, ZEN Stone Plus with built-in speaker) therefore, it makes perfect sense (to them) to incorporate one into its latest flagship player. Unlike the ZEN Stone Plus where the speakers are at the back of the player, it seems more logical for the speaker to be placed below the player, actually it would be more logical if it’s in front but i guess no one wants another ZEN Wav disaster here. The speaker is reasonable decent, afterall it’s a good to have and not really a feature.

    Someone asked if the TravelSound ZEN X-Fi can also accomodate the ZEN. Personally, i think the answer is no. Although the 3.5mm jack of both the ZEN X-Fi and ZEN is placed at the same position, the USB port is not. Therefore if the ZEN X-Fi can charge while it is docked, obviously it can’t dock the ZEN as the USB would be sticking out.


    The power button is now placed at the back of the player. While the re-set button is on the side. I think it’s god sent that the reset button is no longer so deep into the hole like it is on the ZEN. If your player hangs, you simply need a pointed object to reset it. For other players like the ZEN V Plus, Stone, you really need a needle for that. Above the headphone jack is the power LED light which shows green when it’s on, orange when its charging and red when it’s battery is low.

    Same as the ZEN – is the SD Slot and Mic.

    ZEN X-Fi  V.S  ZEN

    EP-830 premium in-ear earphones

    The EP-830 is Creative’s latest mid-range in-ear earphones. It is the predecessor of the highly popular EP-630. I have both the 630 and 830 and although the specs for both earphones are similar, I feel that the bass of the 830 is better. And because the 830 is longer than the 630, it gives a better fit in the ear as my 630 often drop out of my ear because it’s simply … too small. This is the first time Creative is bundling a premium pair of earphones for it’s player. And for the price, it does make it an attractive price to pay for the ZEN X-Fi. X-Fi + Premium in-ear earphones? I think some audiophile just died and went to heaven.

    [Part 2 of the review will be up soon. Thanks for the patience. Do leave a comment if you have any questions! =)]

    ZEN X-Fi official video

    July 10, 2008

    Creative Zen X-Fi debuts in Singapore

    July 10, 2008

    SINGAPORE–After months of rumors and the supposed uncovering of photos and information by epiZENter from Creative’s own site a couple of weeks back, the Creative Zen X-Fi is finally official.

    Unveiled at a press event held in Singapore today, this latest media player will bring home several firsts for Creative’s range of Zen offerings. For starters, the X-Fi is the first Zen player to feature onboard Wi-Fi. This, as rumored earlier, allows not just wireless streaming and downloading of content from the PC, but instant messaging capabilities on Yahoo and MSN as well, with its unique nine-button user interface.

    More importantly, as its name suggests, the Zen X-Fi is Creative’s first player to incorporate the company’s patented X-Fi technology. This provides two audio enhancement options for users. The X-Fi Crystalizer restores details lost during music file compression, while the X-Fi Expand adds more range and virtual effect to the audio playback. To complement the X-Fi sound experience, Creative has also bundled a pair of premium in-ear earbuds (EP-830), another first for the Singapore-based company.

    Like the Creative Zen player introduced last year, the Zen X-Fi comes with a 2.5-inch LCD display, SD/SDHC expansion card slot, FM radio and voice recorder. Additionally, you’ll find an onboard speaker on the X-Fi player.

    The Zen X-Fi will be available in three different storage capacities. The 16GB and 32GB versions will come with Wi-Fi, while the 8GB model will not. The 16GB and 32GB units, which retail for S$329 (US$209.31) and S$399 (US$253.85) respectively, will be available immediately. The S$229 (US$145.69) 8GB model is expected to launch later in July. Additionally, Creative is collaborating with Scorpio East Pictures, MediaCorp Raintree Pictures and Golden Village Pictures to release a limited-edition Red Cliff Zen X-Fi media player. You can read more about it here.

    A number of accessories will be released for the player this month, including a leather case, silicone skin, armband and screen protector sheets. A Creative TravelSound Zen X-Fi Docking Speaker System is also slated for end of September.

    [LINK via CNET ASIA]

    Creative: official promo partner for Red Cliff 赤壁

    July 9, 2008

    Red Cliff (opens island-wide on 11 July) is the most anticipated asian blockbuster of the year. It is also the most expensive asian movie ever filmed. It is a Chinese epic film based on the Battle of Red Cliffs and events during the Three Kingdoms period in Ancient China. The film is expected to be released in two versions: within Asia, Red Cliff is to be released in two parts totaling over four hours in length, with the first part premiering in July 2008 and the second in January 2009. Outside of Asia, a single 2½ hour film will be released in January 2009.

    Directed by John Woo, it features a star studded cast of Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhao Wei and asian sex siren Lin Chi-ling.

    Creative is the official promo partner for Red Cliff in Singapore. This is not the first time Creative have promoted an asian movie. Back in 2007, Creative released 288 limited edition The Warlord ZEN in China. The ZEN player comes pre-loaded with “The Warlords” trailer, the making of and behind the scene pictures.

    Creative 2008 Gaming Guide

    July 9, 2008

    Here’s the list of Soundblaster X-Fi supported game for 2008:

    -Unreal Tournament 3*


    -Kane & Lynch: Dead Men*

    -Rail Simulator*

    -Universe At War Earth Assault*



    -Guild Wars: Eye of the North*

    -Medieval 2: Total War Kingdom*

    -Civilisation IV: Beyond the sword

    – Brian Lara International Cricket 2007*

    -Ricky Ponting International Cricket 2007*

    -Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures

    -Hellgate: London

    -Pirates of the Burning Sea

    -Darkness Within: In Pursuit of Loath


    -Sword of the New World: Granado Espada

    -Avencast: Rise of the Mage


    -Richard Gariott’s Tabula Rasa

    *EAX ADVANCED HD – enabled game title

    Pacific University advances campus communication with Creative inPerson

    July 7, 2008

    It has been quite a while since we heard anything on the Creative’s inPerson. And now it seems that besides medium size businesses, Creative is also targeting educational institution. Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon has apparently ordered 16 sets of inPerson to “provide video conferencing capabilities to and from every building on campus in a cost-effective manner.”.

    “Immediately after implementing inPerson the university noticed an increase in meeting effectiveness, a direct result of participants being able to interact face-to-face. inPerson continues to reduce travel for the University’s executive team, saving valuable time and money, resulting in higher productivity.”

    It is comforting to hear that the Creative inPerson is actually going somewhere. Maybe one day, we will see it in schools, hospitals, homes and even airports?


    Creative slashes ZEN price

    July 4, 2008

    In anticipation of the release of the ZEN X-Fi next week, Creative have slashed the prices of the ZEN.

    ZEN 2GB – SGD$129 (U.P. $149)

    ZEN 4GB – $159  (U.P. $199)

    ZEN 8GB – $209  (U.P. $249)

    ZEN 16GB – $279  (U.P. $329)

    ZEN 32GB – $379  (U.P. $499)

    For more attractive BUNDLED SPECIALS, please visit the Creative Online Store.

    Creative files for FFC

    July 4, 2008

    Creative has filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)and we begin to see more drawing of the new ZEN X-Fi. We do know by now that the ZEN X-fi comes in 3 capacity (8,16,32GB), Wi-fi and non-Wi-fi, 2.5′ screen and there seems to be something more than what it seem to be at the back of the player.

    We will find out eventually when the player is released next week!

    First look: Creative ZEN X-Fi

    June 29, 2008

    Rumours of Creative releasing a new player have been floating around for many months but as the company wasn’t able to achieve a decent battery life to support the X-Fi feature on the player (among other teething problems), the release of the player have been delayed time and again.

    Therefore, it is with bated breath that I annouce to you the leak of Creative latest player, the ZEN X-Fi. Here’s what we know of the ZEN X-Fi so far:

    1. First Creative player to feature its proprietary Xtreme-Fidelity sound technology.  The X-Fi Crystalizer intelligently restores details that were lost during compression of audio files while the X-Fi Expand gives audio a realistic and natural feel by moving the sound away from your ears and repositions it in front of you – as if listening to a live performance on stage. X-Fi Expand works best with your earphones or headphones.

    2. The in-built Wi-Fi allows you to chat with friends over via Yahoo! and MSN messenger and also play video/audio content off Creative “public media server” or your home server.

    3. All new Creative Centrale – a better software solution for all your media needs. Best of all, it comes with a DVD ripper that helps u rip DVD content for your ZEN.

    4. No more cheap bundled earphones for you. The new ZEN X-Fi comes with Creative latest noise cancellation in-ear earphone EP-830 worth $79 for your listening pleasure.

    5. Long battery life – although unconfirmed, the ZEN X-Fi would have a longer battery life than the ZEN, which stands at 30 hours for audio and 5 hours for video.

    6. Radio, Microphone, SD Card slot and built-in speaker.

    7. Available in 8, 16 and 32GB.