What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Tue, 18 Nov 2008, 4:00pm

Creative Zen X-Fi W/less LAN (32GB)

Tested at £200
60100
3

Majors on portability but not so hot when it comes to pure performance; worth considering if price and size are crucial

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For

  • Small
  • wireless music transfers
  • impressive battery life for music
  • plenty of features

Against

  • Small, average quality screen
  • audio lacks refinement
  • not the most intuitive to use

This is one of the dinkiest players we've tested, and it has a similarly slender price tag to boot. What's more, this Creative does its best to punch above its weight.

The welcome screen gives way to slick, simple menus. As well as video and music playback, you'll find an FM radio, a voice recorder, an SD/SDHC card slot, the ability to download content from BBC's iPlayer service and wireless streaming functionality.

This allows you connect to a wi-fi network, and in turn a PC or network media device, and stream or download content to your portable. There's no internet browsing, however.

If you'll be using a more traditional route, loading content remains simple, either by dragging and dropping or using the company's Centrale software.

Naturally, the jean-pocket-friendly size means a not so friendly on the eye screen size. Staring at a screen of just 2.5 inches and with a 320 x 240 resolution for a prolonged period of time may not be everyone's idea of fun.

And the button layout is curious, with only the slightest indication as to what each of the nine identical buttons does. Battery life is good, though, with 30 hours of audio and five hours video time.

Competent, just not great
A smaller screen will often look sharper and more solid with higher resolution content; instead the Zen X-Fi looks disappointingly pixelated and rough round the edges.

Switch to music and the audio quality, while reasonable, lacks the detail and refinement of the better models. Listening to Poison Dart by The Bug, the Creative sounds confused by the complex drum patterns, while overall it's a muffled, closed sound.

If you demand a machine that won't make a dent on your pocket – in more ways than one – then the Creative Zen X-Fi packs plenty of punch for very little footprint but we'd simply like to see a better – and ideally bigger – screen and improved sound.

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