updated 08:40 am EDT, Thu July 10, 2008
Creative ZEN X-Fi
Creative on Thursday took the wraps from the ZEN X-Fi, the company's first-ever wireless player and its first competitor to the iPod touch and Zune. The device succeeds the original ZEN and includes a new, nine-point control pad key to using the device online over Wi-Fi: Wireless LAN versions can use a phone-style text entry system to chat online using Windows Live or Yahoo instant messaging. The network access also gives the X-Fi the ability to stream music and video directly from a home computer on the local network, although a rumored Internet streaming feature doesn't reach the finished product.
The X-Fi name comes into play through dedicated audio enhancing software on the player that can both restore some missing detail from compressed AAC, MP3, and WMA files as well as recreate a non-earphone listening environment; the Expand mode shifts the audio forward to mimic stereo speakers. Creative also steps up the base audio quality with the new ZEN by bundling in-canal earbuds.
The new ZEN also marks the debut of Creative Centrale, a replacement jukebox app that imports and manages music while also serving as the hub for sharing media to wireless models. Users can also now synchronize Outlook calendars and contacts with the ZEN X-Fi, the company adds.
Creative outfits the ZEN with the same relatively broad format support, which includes both the mentioned compressed audio as well as WAV; video support brings AVI, multiple DivX formats, MPEG-4 and Motion JPEG, Windows Media, and XviD. An SD card slot and FM radio provide more music, while users can also record live voice.
The line is split between models with and without the wireless networking support. An entry ZEN X-Fi with 8GB of storage goes without the wireless and sells for the equivalent of $168 in Creative's home country of Singapore. Moving to the 16GB model adds Wi-Fi for $242, while a 32GB edition sells for $293. All three players should be available in Singapore today and are expected to ship to the US in the near future; a $58 TravelSound speaker dock for the new ZENs will be ready by late September.