Holiday season warm up with Creative ZiiO

Year end holiday season is here finally, and I am already imagining a Christmas tree in my house with all the interesting gadgets nicely packed as presents surrounding it. More on that in subsequent blog posts. In the spirit of sharing joy of holiday season, I would begin by sharing my peep on Creative ZiiO 7″ — Creative first attempt in the Android tablet space.

ZiiO 7" Tablet

ZiiO 7" Tablet


Earlier this week, I was privileged to have my hands on Creative ZiiO 7″ tablet, even though it was just a development unit. Given that (that it was just a development unit), the exterior finishing was not expected to be polished. The tablet was however loaded with the latest firmware that would supposedly shipped for production, so the hands on experience will still be close to that of a retail unit.

For a tablet, what draws to one’s attention is usually its form factor and its screen display. Admittedly, the first impression was a mixed feeling. The size of the tablet, defined by a 7″ wide screen, coupled with its all-white outfit, would definitely catch an enthusiast’s attention. This is especially so for somone like me who had already experienced a 6″ Kindle and a 10″ iPad, the two extreme end of a tablet-type devices. Of course, Kindle belongs to a different league altogether, given that it is a dedicated e-reading device. However, the size and weight of these devices should give a tablet-shopping buyer a good reference of what he needs to look out for, for there is no one perfect tablet in the market that fits all the needs.

Holding ZiiO 7" with one hand is convenient


Once ZiiO 7″ catches your attention, the screen display might possibly drops yours. I was definitely disappointed by the screen display, especially after having used to colour vibrancy that Super AMOLED display offers, in my Galaxy S and recently Galaxy Tab. The colour is a little flat, and further impacted by the viewing angle. If there is anyway to describe the visual impact, it feels like a 3M privacy screen filter fitted on it, albeit a little exaggerated. Ziio sports a resistive screen. While it is probably one of the most sensitive resistive screen in the market today, Creative’s decision to stick with it sets me scratching my head given that capacitive screen has becoming a norm these days.  But I was quickly reminded that Ziio 7″ is Creative’s entry model for their Android tablet product line, and costs just 1/3 of Samsung Galaxy Tab’s price tag. Fair enough, but unless you are a budget-conscious shopper, or one who is about to buy the China-made i-Pad lookalikes, wow will be the last thing you would say when you power on the Creative’s ZiiO.

Usability wise, Creative ZiiO is very capable, despite having to navigate over the resistive screen.  The screen was responsive, so were the applications. I was told that ZiiO uses its own processor, ZiiLABS ZMS-08 HD Media-Rich Applications Processor. While I have not benchmarked its processor in the 7″, I tried on ZiiO 10″ which uses the same processor, and the result was astonishingly good, scoring a 3000 over points in CPU. To give some context, my over-clocked Galaxy S could only manage half of what ZiiO has achieved. ZiiO has a stereo speaker, but I could not make out its quality given that I was in a cafeteria at the point of testing ; Just not a conducive environment to test sound quality.

Creative Zii applications


ZiiO is still running the older Android Eclair (2.1) as we speak, even for the retail units. However, I was told that Froyo (2.2) should be released for upgrade very soon.  As I unlocked ZiiO 7″ tablet, I was greeted by Creative’s own simplified lock screen and home launcher. Neat, I told myself. At least the company is going to the right direction in developing its own DNA. On the application front,  Creative have a few customised applications, ZiiMusic, ZiiVideo and ZiiPhoto. Given Creative’s specialty, I have no complaints with their multimedia playback software, although ZiiMusic did hang on me once before I had to reboot the tablet to solve it.

ZiiO's Kindle


Having used Kindle for a while, I naturally tend to compare ZiiO with the former, as an e-reader. ZiiO, with its weight almost twice that of the Kindle 3 (400g vs 241g), definitely feels heavy if one were to read over a prolong period of time. For a quick read, I would think it is definitely capable. What I was impressed is ZiiO’s night mode feature, which not only dim the backlit display, but also also toggle the display foreground and background color, so that the screen would not be too glaring. Although it can’t beat e-ink technology, the night mode feature is the most welcome feature, if you always like to read at night.

In a nut shell, for $359 SGD, I think it gives the China-made A-Pad a run for their money (go support Singapore products!). Looking from another perspective, if you are planning to spend $200-300 for a digital photo frame, grab this Creative ZiiO for its value for money, since it could do what a digital photo frame does, and more. But when pitted side by side with the bigger brothers, I could sense that Creative ZiiO 7″ is shouting out for his super-brother (not ZiiO 10″! fwiw) for reinforcement. I heard it will be coming …

Snap shot video of the hands-on (in a noisy cafeteria)

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