The Creative Zen X-Fi is beyond question a better all-around digital music player than any of Apple's current iPods.
The Creative Zen X-Fi has better sound, superb headphones, an amazing feature set, expandable storage via an SD card slot, an easy-to-use interface that will please users who don't want to work with a touchscreen, and - here's the kicker - the ability to stream and download music from your PC wirelessly. It looks great, too, and it costs about half as much as Apple's current Wi-Fi-enabled iPod Touch players.
The 16GB X-Fi sells for £149. And if that sounds like a bargain, consider that you can also expand the Creative Zen X-Fi player's storage capacity by up to 32GB, thanks to its SD Card slot.
A few features differentiate the Creative Zen X-Fi from the competition. Not only can you download music, video, and images wirelessly from your home computer to the player, but you can also stream media from your computer, from Creative's servers (which offer podcasts and free music), or from a computer on an open network.
Plus, you can fine-tune the already superb sound with the Creative Zen X-Fi's five-band EQ settings; save voice recordings; listen to FM radio; and enjoy the listening experience right out of the box without buying new headphones, thanks to the surprisingly good-sounding Creative EP-830 earbuds included with the unit. The earbuds, which Creative sells separately, fit snugly in the listeners' ears, and provide clear low-end audio, with midrange treble that aren't tinny.
Creative's highly touted X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity Audio playback goes far in helping this player sound amazing. Its signal-to-noise ratio of 83 dB is second only to the SanDisk Sansa Connect's 84 dB in our tests. And the X-Fi earned the best rating of any player we've tested in terms of harmonic distortion and noise - at a barely registering 0.01 percent.
What does that mean for your ears? Creative's X-Fi technology, coupled with the great out-of-the-box earbuds, delivered very deep, clean, well-defined audio. The player supports AAC, MP3, WAV, and WMA formats, as well as Audible audiobooks. You get an on-board speaker as well, but it pumps tinny, clock-radio-quality sound out of its single, small speaker.
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