7-inch Creative ZiiO tablet review: Because tablets need their own creative spin sometimes
Having said that, an unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on how you look at it) side-effect of consumerism today is that devices are now no longer judged by how capable they are in fulfilling the purposes they were designed for. Nope, the focus has now shifted to aesthetical appeal: if it is not good-looking enough, it is going to have quite the hard time fighting for market share, regardless of how capable it is.
Unfortunately, this is one aspect where the ZiiO barely did not make the grade, and we will explain why.
A Closer Look: Design
Like many competing products available on the market today, the Creative seven-inch ZiiO tablet comes in any color that the consumer desires, as long as it is white. Of course, this is not necessarily a bad thing, since there are instances where the lack of choice can prove to be an asset for consumers. At the very least, this will allow potential ZiiO customers to focus more on the tablet's functionality and not on trivial matters such as color scheme.
However, we should point out that the whole 'lack of choice is a good thing' situation usually only works if the product is designed and developed to a point where it exceeds even the harshest critic's expectations. Unfortunately for the ZiiO, this does not appear to be the case, as the overall design of the tablet seems to scream 'last-generation' with its contoured edges and cheap plastic construction. In fact, we could not help but feel as if Creative built a time machine, went back in time to the 1990s, had their engineers from that era design the ZiiO and hopped back into the present with the finished product.
Don't get us wrong though: plastic is perfectly suitable for use as a tablet's base, especially when it is both lightweight and cheap to produce. However, the fact that Creative's best attempt with the material comes off looking like a device that would have wow-ed users way back in the early days of tablet PC computing says a lot about its somewhat uninspiring look and feel.
Still, we have a review to carry out, and since a mini rant about 10 reasons why Creative should not have designed the ZiiO this way does not make for interesting reading, we shall move on to the next part of the ZiiO's exterior: its touchscreen, buttons and I/O ports.
A Closer Look: Touchscreen
You'd probably think that the rapid advancement of technology means that smartphones and tablet PCs should be using nothing but capacitive touchscreen technology, right? Well, Creative apparently thought otherwise. Instead of the widely-used technology mentioned above, the company has opted to furnish its ZiiO tablet with a resistive touchscreen instead.
Granted, the use of a resistive touchscreen means that users immediately lose access to certain touchscreen gestures that we take for granted today on our smartphones, such as 'pinch-to-zoom. However, one should also take note that the ZiiO was never designed to be yet another of the generic 'multimedia-capable' tablets currently flooding the market.
In fact, the choice of a resistive touchscreen would appear to be more appropriate, as handwriting recognition is a feature of the ZiiO, and trust us when we say that it felt a lot easier to write out words and characters with a proper pen-shaped stylus as opposed to using our big fingers. More importantly, Creative had also claimed in their official launch back last year that the decision to go resistive was made due to the fact that capacitive touchscreens had a tendency to 'lock up' under extremely low temperatures such as during winter in Russia, wheras resistive technology did not suffer from such limitations.
You would also have realized that the ZiiO comes with four obligatory touch-sensitive buttons located at the bottom of the display for accessing Android's Search, Home, Menu and Back functions. And yes, these buttons are resistive in nature.
Last but not least, located directly above the touchscreen display lies the ZiiO's one and only camera. Do not expect much out of this little gimmick though: it can only capture videos and still images at the very low (by today's standards)VGA resolution.
A Closer Look: Buttons and Connectivity/IO ports
The ZiiO comes standard with a small array of buttons and I/O ports which many will consider to be part of a standard tablet's design. Located at the ZiiO's bottom are the obligatory charging port, along with the two speaker grilles located directly beneath it. And if you are wondering what that tiny hole situated to the left of the charging port is supposed to be, let's just say that it is capable of emitting light, but only when the ZiiO is connected to a power source.
The ZiiO's sides are rather spartan though: the right side houses the volume control buttons, while a single slot for MicroSD/MicroSDHC cards resides on the left.
The tablet's top has a slightly wider variety of ports: in addition to the all-important power button and 3.5mm stereo output jack are a miniUSB port suitable for charging or data transfer purposes and a HDMI-out port which Creative claims is capable of outputting media content at resolutions of up to 720p. Last but not least, this is also where the ZiiO's tiny microphone resides: right after the HDMI-out port.