Since the launch of the iPad the market has been saturated with tablets, the majority running on Android. Now, as much as I love Android, it was designed for phones and not tablets. As a result the user experience isn’t brilliant and the standard Market Place is out of bounds.
Android 3.0 – Honeycomb – designed specifically for tablet should remedy this. Meantime, however, the tablet releases are not reducing.
A recent release is the Creative ZiiO 7. This is a media-centric tablet with a white plastic surround and back and a resistive screen. The latter ensures the price is kept low – around £200 for the 8GB version, compared to the £360 for a Samsung Galaxy Tab (and don’t forget that was priced at around £500 when it was released last year). It sports wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity, a micro-SD port for expansion and a standard headphone socket. PC Connectivity is via a USB port. It does not have GPS.
In the rather natty box1 you will find the tablet, a single black stylus, mains charger, USB cable and a small box containing a quick start guide and various other leaflets. The main user guide is installed on the ZiiO itself.
First things first, the Ziio is running Android 2.1 – Creative have said that an upgrade to 2.2 is due mid-March.
I know many people are holding back on tablet purchases until Android 3.0 is available – any manufacturer who can state that buying their device beforehand will not mean they miss out on this is certainly going to get early adopters. At the moment, though, Creative are saying that without knowing the requirements of Honeycomb they can’t yet say if the Ziio will ever get it.
It’s a media tablet because it comes with a collection of ZiiO specific media apps – audio, video, photo, RSS reader, book reader, etc – and has the X-fi audio enhancements included. If connecting via Bluetooth it also sports the apt-X audio codec. Stereo speakers are mounted at the bottom on the rear of the device and a microphone is on the very top.
What is is lacking is Flash. Having said, if it’s YouTube video that you hanker for then the official YouTube app will still happily play. Unfortunately, other apps such as the recently release iPlayer for Android does require Flash (or rather Android 2.2, which comes with Flash).
From Monday 21st February until mid March, Creative are giving away a free pair of EP-630 noise-isolating headphones with every purchase of the ZiiO 7″.
It’s 7″ 480×800 screen isn’t particularly clear or vibrant, but the resistive screen is quite good in use. You can use your finger or the included stylus – I prefer the latter. Only one stylus is included though, which is a shame, and there’s no place to store it unless you buy the optional leather case.
It has a front-facing VGA camera (useful for, say, Skype) and a top-mounted HDMI port for connection to a big screen.
The processor is one of their own design but is rather nippy in use. Certainly, I had no issues, and it’s been tuned for media. Internet browsing is particularly quick.
Battery life is excellent – I usually have to charge it once a week2, although Creative have used their own power connector rather than a more usual USB type. An LED lights when charging is in progress – this is the only LED on this device as there is no notification light.
Creative appears to have implemented its own standby mode, overriding the standard Android standby. This means, for instance, that wifi will turn off when the screen does, even if you’ve specified otherwise in the Android settings. What this does mean though is that in standby (rather than turned fully off) the battery is hardly draining.
However, if you need to keep wi-fi alive (say for automatic podcast downloading) but don’t want to leave the screen on, then a new app has been released to the market named Advanced Wifi Lock. It does indeed work – I tested it on the ZiiO for the developer, and he’s even especially made the APK available directly for ZiiO users.
There is an additional power-saving mode, which I haven’t used, as it reduces processor speed. There’s no automatic screen dimming, however, so you’ll find yourself having to do this manually.
Unfortunately the battery is not replaceable.
The power button on the top is flush with the case – it’s neither protruding nor recessed. As a result it’s impossible to find it without actually tilting the tablet and looking for it. When using the tablet in the dark (and the book reader has a night reading mode, so I’m assuming they expect you to use it then!) it’s impossible to find! Having said that, the 4 touch buttons under the screen are not lit so they cannot be seen in the dark either.
Without the standard Google Marketplace, getting hold of apps are a little more difficult. Creative provide their own equivalent but it’s not really very good (which is pretty much common with other company’s efforts). They also provide a “starter pack” of popular apps which can be downloaded from their site. The best solution is to to download APKs directly – I will be posting about this at a later time.
Games, I have to say, are perfect for this tablet – whether Angry Birds or Raging Thunder, the side and weight of the ZiiO is perfect and the screen and sound of excellent quality.
Summary of Creative ZiiO 7I use it at work and will often use it at home for ad-hoc surfing – certainly it’s far better than my cramped HTC Hero screen, and a lot quicker than booting up my Netbook. And when it comes to media capabilities, it’s a huge amount of fun, especially when paired with Bluetooth headphones (leave the tablet on a desk and wander around listening to some excellent quality music).
PC Pro, when they reviewed the ZiiO thought it to be one of the better Android tablets – from my own experience, I have to agree. Running Android is not without its limitations and I still think Apple iOS is the leader in the tablet market. However, for pure value-for-money the ZiiO cannot currently be beaten.
Reviewed by David Artiss on 18th February 2011.