Creative has waited before taking its first leap into the tablet market, but has entered with 7-inch and 10-inch screen sizes it’s billing as ‘entertainment devices,’ with enticing features to make it appeal to audiophiles.
At a £199 entry point, the 7-inch Ziio is half the price of an Apple iPad and Motorola Xoom. But the comparison stops with the word ‘tablet.’ This isn’t an rival to either of them and as we’ve seen so many budget Android tablets and is evident when you use this tablet, you get what you pay for.
A light 400g, the 7-inch version is white (if you want black you have to go for the 10-inch version), even though it’s plastic it feels solid and strong, with an inoffensive design.
Connections include HDMI, mini USB and DC point for charging. There’s a 3.5mm jack at the top and dedicated volume controls on the side. Alongside 8GB or 16GB internal memory, expand storage using the microSD slot on the side.
Creative Ziio: Screen
At 800x480, screen resolution is pitifully low, especially when you consider it’s exactly the same found in 4-inch smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S and LG Optimus 2X. It’s far less than the 1024x600 of the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab and Blackberry Playbook.
Video quality isn’t too bad though, with smooth playback, although colours could be punchier. Off-angle viewing is poor, although the stereo speakers produce a respectably loud sound.
What is worse is that the touchscreen is resistive instead of capacitive, which means on occasion you end up jabbing the screen multiple times to try to get commands to respond. Typing especially requires precision too, we frequently pressed L when we meant to press Delete. It’s not terrible, you can still browse web pages and Creative supplies a stylus to help, however anyone used to multitouch on their phones will find the experience sluggish.
Creative Ziio: Android
The Ziio runs Android 2.1, but if you’re expecting the same functionality from an Android handset you’ll be disappointing. There’s no synching to Gmail, or Android apps to customise the three homescreens. Additionally, like the Archos 7 Home Tablet, the Ziio doesn’t support the Android Market. Instead you have to go to the Zii Store, which has a limited selection of apps, although you do get Facebook, Twidroid, BBC News and Word Press. You Tube is only available through the browser as well.
Creative Ziio: Music
The unique selling point of the Ziio tablets is their music capability. Support for the apt-X codec lets you stream audio over Bluetooth without a loss of quality, it’s accessed within the music player by pressing the Pure Android Audio button.
We streamed a selection of tracks at different bitrates to the Creative WP-300 and sound quality is really impressive - surprisingly so for Bluetooth - in fact you almost forget you're streaming. You can also stream to a wireless dock, like the Creative Zii Sound D5 or Conran Audio Dock. As well the usual MP3 and AAC, the Ziio also supports uncompress audio like WAV and - unlike the iPad - lossless formats FLAC and OGG
Elsewhere other X-Fi Audio Enhancements include X-Fi Crystalizer which adds detail and X-Fi Expand makes a huge difference to movie playback, adding a sense of surround and depth
Creative Ziio: Verdict
With its excellent audio capability, the Creative Zii stands apart from other tablets. Although it’s a shame there aren’t more iPod docks or headphones supporting the APT-X codec to make use of this feature.
Elsewhere the resistive screen makes navigation exceptionally sluggish and app choice is limited. However, the tablet only costs £199, which is exceptionally cheap - an an extra £20 doubles the storage. If you’re looking for a tablet for the odd browse and music streaming it’s worth a look. Otherwise save your money and wait until the Blackberry Playbook or HTC Flyer are out.
Creative Ziio price: £199 8GB, £219 16GB
Creative Ziio launch date: Out now, link Creative