The Zen and Now
The menu structure for navigation is simple because it is linear and for each main menu item you have a icon with supporting text.
The first menu item is Photos. I found it strange that Photos is the first menu because this is really a music player so I felt Music should be the first featured item. Also, it was not possible to modify the display order. What was strange is that you are able to modify which menus, including the sub-menus, that gets displayed. It would not have taken much more work to allow the changing of the display order to a custom setting.
Here is the tree structure of the menus.
Let’s look at the real menus.
Take a look at the Photos sub-menu, it allows navigation of the photos using thumbnails. When you move through the photos, the item in focus gets ‘zoomed’. This is a nice feature because the visual sense of location is made simple and you don’t have to search around looking for a highlighted box.
The Music menu follows. As you can see, the icon is quite representative of the selection.
Notice in the Album view that Chinese double-byte characters do not show properly. If you intend to rip or have a lot of Chinese music you will need to take note and use Hanyu Pinyin for your Album and Song Names.
X-Fi is the third menu and it provides the X-Fi Crystalizer option. Turning on this feature basically enhances (or as Creative would have your hear – Xtreme FIdelity) lossy ripped and compressed music. Personally, I found the music to simply sound ‘brighter’ through the enhancement of the high and mid frequencies. Another option X-Fi Expand (3D sound) did not seem to add much to the audio quality or listening experience. Perhaps the original sound material used was not good enough.
The Video menu gives you access to Videos that you’ve transferred via the Centrale Control. You also get access to a TV sub-menu and ZENCast. ZENCast is the most interesting of the selections because it is content you can access via the Wireless LAN.
The Online menu takes you into the feature of connecting to a Wireless LAN. On the Wireless LAN connection you should be able to see a Media Server that I looks to be maintained by Creative.
The other reason for using the Wireless LAN connectivity is to use a built-in Chat function like a Instant Messenger. Creative went and created their own proprietary chat function, one that is not compatible with MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, QQ or any others. Which is a shame really but it is not much of a loss because if you had to learn how to use the text input on the X-Fi you’d find it frustrating.
Inputting text is sadly frustrating and maddening because it is like a mobile phone input and it is not like a mobile phone input. It adopts some of the mobile phone tapping but alters the way you acknowledge the letter being selected.
The FM Radio is just that just don’t expect
great any reception indoors.
The ability to do voice recordings is interesting but the one flaw with this feature is that you have to use the built-in microphone. There isn’t an option to use a separate microphone. The device could then be useful to record audio like that for an interview using a directional microphone.
If you fancy keeping another calendar and contact list then you can do so with the Zen X-Fi. The calendar could be more useful if it were able to exchange information with the Photo Album and/or Music Album. Capture the creation date and then organise them into the days of the calendar. Especially useful as you can usually remember the date of a holiday or birthday and you would naturally have pictures taken from those dates. Also, putting the information into the Calendar and Contacts means using the Creative Centrale application.
Creative has been updating the firmware and has done so at least two times since the first release. I did have problems when trying to perform the firmware updates and continue to do so with the most recent update that is available.