Design & Features
The Creative ZEN X-fi2 is a light and compact PMP that has plenty of features under its hood. It has a simple look and clean design.The body front has a dark glossy finish with a chrome bezel. It is mainly occupied by a 3-inch TFT resistive touch screen which has a resolution of 400x240 pixels with 262k color support. Right next to the screen is a physical home/menu button with an onboard mono speaker below.
The back of the Creative ZEN X-Fi2 has a faux white metallic finish and is more resistant to smudges and scratches than the glossy front. Its 8GB (16GB and 32GB versions are also available) of internal memory can be extended via the microSD card slot.
Ports for miniUSB and a 3.5mm headphone jack are on the right of the Creative ZEN X-Fi2, while a microSD card slot and power button are on the top. It is disappointing that there is no external volume control which is useful in a grab-and-go situation.
The Creative ZEN X-Fi2 came with Creative's own X-fi technology for sound enhancement and the player plays a wide variety of formats that includes MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC and WAV for audio and WMV9, MPEG4-SP3, DivX3 4/5 and XviD for video.
It has FM radio with 32 station slots but no recording feature. Voice recording is possible via its built-in microphone though. It also displays JPEG and BMP images. The Creative ZEN X-Fi2 player has TV-out support as well but a TV-out cable is not included. It also has some handy features like an organiser and off-line RSS reader. Users can synchronise tasks, calendars, contacts and RSS feeds with a PC connected to Internet. There's also a Sudoku game that came pre-installed to let you kill time while your favourite tune is being played in the background. With the Creative Application Development Kit available for the ZEN X-fi2, there may be more apps in the future.
The package includes the popular entry level EP-630 in-ear headphone which is surely a big leap from the usual cheap buds that come with most PMPs. For synching and organising media files, Creative Centrale software can be installed from the player on a PC once it is connected to a PC using the bundled USB cable.
Performance & Usability
Firstly, the Creative ZEN X-Fi2 player required a long press on the power button to switch it on. And the player's interface, despite its clear and colourful design, felt sluggish and did not properly respond to touch input. The design however was quite straightforward and accessing commonly used features was not a problem. Fortunately, Creative released a firmware update (v1.11.0) to fix issues like the slow power-on process and some stability issues. Post updating the firmware, the player showed slight improvement in terms of overall response from powering on to basic navigation. However, we still have to press it hard on the screen and the response was not quick and breezy as the iPod Touch.
The Creative ZEN X-Fi2's sound quality is way above average and FLAC support is a bonus here. Our playback tracks gave us bright highs, crispy mids and tight bass. While comparing with the Cowon D2+ and iPod Touch, the ZEN X-fi2 has brighter highs but lesser punch than the Cowon D2+ which has tighter, more articulate and fuller sound. It has highs as bright as the iPod Touch but a bit less detailed mids and bass. Overall, its sound, despite falling behind the Cowon D2+ and the iPod Touch, is still above average. The X-fi sound enhancement did add more bass and treble but the player sounded better with this being switched off.
The Creative ZEN X-Fi2's onboard speaker has a very low output and is not useable except in a quiet environment. FM radio reception is good and the player quickly picked up stations without any hiccups. Sounds recorded were of average quality. Video playback is quite smooth and detailed though the screen is not great. Its battery lasted us for a decent 20 hours of audio playback.
Priced at £99 the Creative ZEN X-fi2 is a good PMP for its wide format support and sound quality. However, its rather slow response and the non-responsive touchscreen stopped it from becoming a superior product.