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Creative ZiiO 7-Inch: Not Really a 'Tablet'
When it comes to multimedia products Creative is one of the oldest companies that have been churning out competitive products starting off with PC peripherals like speakers and then branching out into components, media players and now tablets. In order to keep up with the public demand to stay current, it’s only natural for any company to try their hand at what’s currently trending in the market. Creative have launched two tablets under the ZiiO branding, a 7-incher and a 10-incher. Today, we’ll be reviewing the former that’s available in two memory capacities - 8GB and 16GB.
The ZiiO comes well packaged with all the basic accessories including a handy travel case. The 7-incher is only available in white so you might want to keep it in the case if that’s not your color. It's fairly lightweight at 415g and built well so it feels sturdy. Most of the ports are placed on the top which include the power button, 3.5mm headphone jack, mini HDMI (cable not included) and a mini-USB port. The volume rocker button is on the right while the micro-SD memory card slot is on the left. There were some issues with the card slot on our unit though, everytime a mciro SD card (2GB, 4GB, 8GB) was inserted, the tablet would stop responding and behave erratically. Creative also includes a thin-pin power adapter for charging although you can charge it via USB as well. The usual sets of touch sensitive shortcut buttons on the front similar to many Android based tablets and phones are located just under the display. The 7" screen sports a resolution of 480x800 pixels and is 13.7mm thick.
HDMI out supports 720p resolution
The Creative ZiiO 7 runs Android 2.2.1 FroYo with Creative's own skin. The interface is certainly not the best I've seen but it's manageable. Browsing the main menu feels very slow and laggy for some reason which is not the case with the home screen. Creative have added their own apps like the ZiiStore, ZiiAcademy which is a e-book reader that comes bundled with a few popular novels, Kindle app, Audible app which lets you access your audiobooks and their pure android audio (PAA) app that let's you control the X-Fi audio settings.
The ZiiO 7 is powered by their own ZiiLABS ZMS-08 chip which is essentially an Arm Cortex-A8 CPU running at 1GHz. Creative have also added some of their own home grown flavors like an X-Fi audio processor with Crystallizer and Expand audio features. The screen sports a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels, but here’s the kicker, it’s a resistive touch screen with no multi-touch support which puts a huge damper on the overall worth of the device. There is a front facing VGA camera but no rear camera. For connectivity, we have Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR and Wi-Fi with A2DP. I quite liked the overall build and design of the ZiiO, it doesn’t come across as tacky or unfinished like some lower end tablets.
Let me just get this out of the way right now. Navigating around the ZiiO was quite a painful experience. The UI is very sluggish and this is not because of the resistive screen, that’s still manageable, it’s the main menu that gets really bogged down for some reason. The same thing happens whenever you try opening an application. There is a significant lag and many times the screen will lock up and not respond to any input for a good ten seconds or so. Disabling animations helps a bit, but not a lot.
Creative's own E-book reader
Sine the ZiiO doesn’t have a SIM card slot, the market place is not available. Creative have their own version of this called ZiiStore, it's a one-time sign up process to gain access. The selection of apps is pretty limited, most of them you’ve never heard of. You can avoid this, of course by just connecting the ZiiO to your PC and dumping the app files directly.
If you leave aside the sluggish UI for a second, you’ll find 1080p playback to be very smooth. The ZiiO supports all major formats like .MOV, .AVI, .MKV files with DivX or XviD codecs. Even when skipping backwards or forward, I didn’t notice any lag. There were a few instances where I noticed some skipped fames during action sequences in full HD clips but other than that, there was no problem. The picture quality is good with decent color reproduction and good amount of brightness. Finger prints are a problem although there is an option to use a stylus and the viewing angles are quite poor especially in landscape mode.
Full HD videos play without a hitch
The sound quality is really good thanks to the X-Fi sound chip. The Crystalizer feature does its job of boosting the higher end frequencies making the audio richer. I didn’t find much use for the ‘Expand’ feature here as it didn’t do much to enhance the sound. One major glitch that I found is that you can’t use the volume rocker in sleep mode or when it's locked which is ridiculous. This means you have to wake it up, unlock the screen and then adjust the volume which is quite a task when listening to music.
I also ran a couple of benchmarks to get some objective scores. Linpack reported a score of 11.2Mflops/s which is slightly lower than Viewsonic Viewpad 10 which packed in an Intel Atom N455 which gave a score of 15Mflops/s.
In terms of battery life, we got about a days worth from the ZiiO but with on and off usage with WiFi enabled. When you consider HD video playback, I managed to get about 3.5Hrs of battery life which is pretty average to be honest considering there are better options out in the market.
Pricing and Verdict
Creative’s first attempt at a tablet is a major let down. And to top it off they have priced it at a crazy Rs.17,999. If it was priced somewhere around 10K, it would make a decent buy considering it plays full HD movies, WiFi and runs Android. If you only look at the video and audio playback capabilities then it’s a pretty nifty device, especially with the X-Fi sound chip, the audio quality is really good provided you use decent earphones. But the asking price is just too high for what is essentially a PMP with a large screen. Even though Creative classifies it as a tablet, you’ll never use it for any productivity applications due to its sluggish UI and with just 8GB of internal storage, the ideal price should have been somewhere around 7K-10K, nothing more. It goes to show, if you want a fully functional tablet you’ll have to shell out more than 20K, there’s just no way around it, well at least for now.