The Creative Ziio is a Google Android 2.2 tablet with a 7in screen.
There are hundreds of tablets based on Google's Android operating system out but none has managed to hit a good balance of value for money and features. Creative might not have a background in tablets but it knows how to build good portable mobile devices, and has applied that know-how to its £199 7in Ziio tablet. Some specifications and features have necessarily been sacrificed to keep costs down on this Android Froyo 2.2 tablet, but it's still worthy of consideration.
Our Ziio test unit came with 8GB of memory, although if you buy directly from Creative, they throw in 16GB, and a 1GHz ZiiLABS ZMS-08 processor. Creative made its name in the audio world and the onboard processor here allows plenty of playback tweaking. The audio quality through headphones is excellent but the Zii sounds much better than it looks: the screen has a resolution of only 480x800 pixels. Some of the high-end smartphones we've reviewed can match that.
The Creative Ziio is nice enough to look at even if it feels a little too plastic. The gloss white finish and 7in form factor and Creative has kept the hardware buttons to a minimum so it doesn't interrupt the sleek finish. At the top there's an integrated VGA camera for video chats and you get a microSD card slot, one mini USB, headphone, microphone, power button and volume.
You can get decent enough details if you stream 720p HD content to the Creative Ziio but the colours are a washout. The screen restrictions aren't that significant when browsing online but the limited resolution and poor colour palette really don't lend themselves to media-rich applications. One of the issues with the display is that Creative has used a much cheaper resistive touchscreen rather than the capacitive type found in almost every other tablet and smartphone. The screen was more responsive than we'd expected - we had no trouble navigating around the device's menus - but it's still a big drawback.
The lack of apps is an issue. The Creative Ziio uses Android 2.2, putting it in the same sphere as the far more accomplished but also more expensive Samsung Galaxy Tab. However, there's no native support for the Google Android Marketplace, severely reducing the number of apps available for you to download and install. Creative dodges this with its own ZiiStore, but only offers a paltry selection of apps.
The Ziio could also do with a feature boost. You don't get 3G on this tablet and the Wi-Fi only supports 802.11 b/g with no support for the much faster 802.11.n. That does make streaming 720p HD content harder from a distance, but at least the 1GHz ZiiLABS ZMS-08 processor has enough power to cope with high-quality video playback over a good range of formats. The Ziio also gets marks for offering a mini HDMI-out port so you can watch your 720p video content on other displays.