Tuesday, July 29, 2008

ZEN X-Fi Review Part 3

ZEN X-Fi Wireless Lan
Besides the X-Fi, the other selling point of the ZEN X-Fi is its Wireless Lan (Wi-Fi) function. The Wi-Fi function here has two main capabilites. One is to stream/download media content wirelessly from your PC or to your ZEN X-Fi. The other is to chat with your friends via MSN or Yahoo! Messenger. The player's WiFi operates on the widely used 802.11b and 802.11g protocols. And it works on both secured (encryption key needed) and unsercured network. Once you successfully connect to a particular network (e.g your home network), you can save it as a (up to 10) preferred network, so that you do not have to manually key in your username and password every single time you connect.

Secured Home Network - Connecting to your home wireless network is effortless. Once you enter the player's ONLINE menu and select MEDIA SERVER, it will automatically display all detected network. Choose the one that is yours and key in your username and password and you're ready to go.

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Public Unsecured Network - If you're using the free wireless at cafes or shopping mall, repeat the above steps, the only difference is that this time, there might be many more network detected.
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Streaming/Downloading Media Content to your ZEN X-Fi
I must admit this is one of the coolest function with the ZEN X-Fi. Because with the X-Fi, you still have to explain to your friend what the hell is xtreme fidelity and how it restores the blah,blah,blah. But once you tell them your ZEN X-Fi is able to stream your porn from your PC to say the toilet, suddenly they will all look up to you with new foudn respect.

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Ok, I digress. Once you sync your ZEN X-Fi to your PC using the Creative Centrale, you are able to view (no lag) and download music, photos and video to your player. However, it will not stream ALL your videos, below is the recommended video formats for wireless streaming:
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Besides your own media files, you're also able to access the Creative Mediabox. Basically, the Mediabox is like a mini ZENcast.com where you can stream podcast from many different channels in categories like "Comedy", "Education", "Envirnonment" etc. You can access this anywhere with Wi-Fi connection. However, you can't download, rewind or fastforward the podcast.
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Below is a video demo of the ZEN X-Fi's ability to stream/download music, photos and videos from your computer to your ZEN X-Fi:



MSN / Yahoo! Chat on the ZEN X-Fi
To chat on MSN or Yahoo! on the ZEN X-Fi, you have to firstly register for an ZEN X-Fi Chat Account with Creative. The account will act like a gateway for your MSN or Yahoo!, so instead of the chatting interface that we are already very familiar with when using these chat services on our PC, the ZEN X-Fi's chat interface is quite different.

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You can't choose a display picture for your ZEN X-Fi chat (though you can see your friend's one). However, you can create your own avatar:
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Chatting on MSN:
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There are two types of text input on the ZEN X-Fi: the keyboard input and the circular keyboard. Personally I like the keyboard input more as it acts almost like your handphone. The circular keyboard is more difficult to use but some might like the uniqueness of it. However I would like to stress that chatting on the ZEN X-Fi really isn't that easy as the buttons are really small and it doesn't have the T9 dictionary that we are all so familiar with. And also, while chatting, you will not be able to play songs at the same time.
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Below is a video demo of how the ZEN X-Fi chat works:



Creative Centrale
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Another change with the ZEN X-Fi comes in the form of its software. Unlike previous players which comes with its respective software (ZEN V Plus would have its ZEN V Plus explorer etc), the Creative Centrale is set to be the default software for all past and future Creative players. It allows you to edit the tag information, add album art, rip CDs and organise your music. The best thing about Creative Centrale is that it allows you to rip unprotected DVDs.
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Personally, I find ripping DVD a chore even with the iRiverter. Therefore, I wasn't having high hopes when I heard that Creative have included a DVD ripper with the Centrale. But after toying around abit with the ripper and ripping a couple of DVDs, I do find that it does a pretty decent job although there's still much room for improvement.

Once you insert your DVD into your computer, you will be prompted to "Rip DVD with Creative Centrale". I took 28 minutes to rip a 1 hour and 51 minutes DVD. All videos will be ripped into .mpg with the resolution of 720 x 480. One major problem with Creative is that its software is not compatible with its hardware and clearly, it hasn't learnt from its mistake. Videos taken on the Creative Vado (.avi format) is not compatible on both the ZEN and the ZEN X-Fi. Neither are videos ripped using the Centrale. Instead, after ripping your DVD to .mpg, you have to convert the file (which is usually above 4GB) to .wmv to be able to transfer to the ZEN X-Fi which takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r. What I did to overcome this problem is to use the Creative Video Convertor to convert the file to .wmv which took me about 2 hours. Also, you are unable to select the resolution of the video nor subtitles for the video. Hopefully, a software update will provide an improvement in this area.

SD Slot
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There are many media players in the market that supports SD intergartion, sadly, not the ZEN X-Fi. This means that files on your SD card are not accessible in the ZEN X-Fi's main library. Instead to view the files on the SD card, you have to enter a separate menu. This has dissapoint many as many of the original ZEN users have feedback that they wanted SD integration. The SD feature on the ZEN X-Fi is almost similar to the ZEN, except that it allows the ZEN X-Fi to act as an SD card reader.
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Accessories
The ZEN X-Fi is available in 8GB (no Wi-Fi), 16Gb & 32GB (Wi-Fi) versions. In terms of accessories, there's the armband, leather case, silicone skin, screen protector and the Travelsound ZEN X-Fi. For me, I chose the silicone skin and the ZEN screen protector for my ZEN X-Fi.
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Last Words
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The ZEN X-Fi is no doubt Creative's best sounding player to date. The X-Fi feature does dramatically enhance your music quality. It's form factor is very much like the ZEN. However, we're impressed at how they managed to squeeze in a speaker, Wi-Fi chip, X-Fi enhancer and yet deliver a longer battery life. The Wi-Fi function on the player isn't perfect but we guess it's a rather good to have. However, we do hope that Creative would improve on the chat function of the player (T9 dictionary maybe?) and also integrate the SD slot with the player's library. It isn't an impossible task as many of the other players in the market already has such a function. Maybe as we listen to Creative's Sound of Prefection on the ZEN X-Fi, Creative should Listen Up, to what it's consumer really wants from them.

[Read Part 1 and part 2 of the ZEN X-Fi review]

16 comments:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
platodino said...

great review. no wonder it took you quite sometime to finish it. i seriously wonder why the other reviews like abi didn't pick up the circular input and sd card reader etc.

none claim that msn/yahoo worked, which completely put me off initially. good to hear it's working just fine.

as of now, im just hoping for a firmware that will bring the sms phone input style to arrive zen x-fi. that's only when it will be successful. seeing how you key those characters really makes my thumb hurts. lol.

Lucas said...

Great review I think i will be getting the ZEN X-fi.

citya said...

creative zen review: http://creativezen.commongate.com, which zen to buy?

Anonymous said...

The player looks great, but i would really like something with a bigger screen to watch my movies on ...

Anonymous said...

They should add the ability to share content between players, copying and/or streaming, instead of this silly chat. And ogg/flac support. Would buy it asap then.

ytz said...

great review! love your blog very much!

Mr.Mysterious said...

I WANT TO INQUIRE A FEW THINGS ABOUT THE ACCESSORIES

1. what is more important? silicone skin or screen protector? doesn't the silicon skin cover the screen of the zen?

2. The silicone skin isn't available with us.creative.com...how do I get it now? i live in India.

3. how helpful is th leather case? is it a good alternative for the silicon skin?

4. doesn't the silicone skin spoil the style quotient in the ZEN?

Joseph J. said...

Great site, love your communications style, very to-the-point and arresting.

Is there any advantage in having a numeric keyboard on the 8GB (which has no Wi-Fi)? Just better access to FM presets?

Since the old Rio Forge has SD integration, I can't see why no one in Creative could foresee this need. Must really be spaghetti code for them to not be able to add SD integration.

Steelybroom said...

GOT MY ZEN X-FI yesterday woohoo, have my wireless set up and messaging working fine, i would recomend this player to anyone (and have done).

Prim said...

Thanks, good review. I almost converted to Apple, as the new Creative series did not catch my attention anymore. I had a first gen Zen but thank God I saw the X Fi 10 days ago, and bought it immediatly. I am very pleased with the sound my X fi card delivers in my pc. It really makes a diffirence. Cant wait to receive it!!!

John said...

“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”

Well thats really wrong because the method to input text on this player is not like that all, the method is nothing like a standard cell phone which you are suggesting. If you don’t believe me hit “Creative Zen X-Fi wireless Features Part 2″ into youtube, then you will really see how frustrating the texting method is.
I find the Messenger Live! and Yahoo! IM chat feature the most useless feature and is only there as an attractive yet still very useless feature. Although I must say everything else on the ZEN X-FI is perfect. maybe all that plastic could have been metal though… but I suppose that makes the player lighter.
Very good Review.
4/5

Abhinav Mishra said...

ok seems the mod of this blog isn’t replying to the questions…anyway i’ll try myluck too ;D
important question (some r repeated)

1. How do you convert the videos? does it have a converter in the installation disk? If centrale is the way to go, i couldn’t find the convert button anywhere

2. Is the screen scratch proof?

3. Overall, what would you rate higher and why? (b\w zen and x-fi)

4. How much of disk space would a movie (originally in divX format [torrents ! ] which is about 700 mb, ) be in the format the player requires???
If you could answer these questions, I (we) ‘d be glad .
Thankyou.

Michael said...

I like Creative…Actually, I have a ZEN.. I love how it sounds but Creative really has to put value on customer’s demands..Long ago, people wanted to have SD card integration but Creative ignored it…since they are releasing 16GB versions, a 16GB SDHC upgrade isn’t much a big deal to them,people would still be buying their products. The case with ZEN is different when they have lower capacity version, say 2GB and if they have the SD card integ, then they are on the losing end. Just imaging people buying just a 2GB ZEN + 16GB SDHC….The case with ZEN X-Fi is different, and so Creative must have that SD card integration in their next firmware release…I really love Creative, much like I want to help them or something..I dont want them to suddenly disappear from this type of market..They must know the commoner’s demands, and not just focus on the High tech features….

Jugis Indignatio said...

Great review... Kingone, could you please find out if the leather case has the ability to be attached to a belt?

Thanks.

Rachel said...

What alternatives are there to Creative Centrale? I'm not thrilled with how mine is working. I plan to try dragging and dropping into the player until I find something else.