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Creative Zen X-Fi 3 review

Andrew Williams

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Reviewed:

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Creative Zen X-Fi 3
  • Creative Zen X-Fi 3
  • Creative Zen X-Fi 3
  • Creative Zen X-Fi 3
  • Creative Zen X-Fi 3
  • Creative Zen X-Fi 3
  • Creative Zen X-Fi 3
  • Creative Zen X-Fi 3
  • Creative Zen X-Fi 3
  • Creative Zen X-Fi 3

Summary

Our Score:

6

Pros

  • Plenty of features
  • Lossless support
  • Good bundled earphones

Cons

  • Ropey interface and navigation
  • Oddly chunky design

Key Features

  • 8GB storage
  • microSD slot
  • FM radio
  • Bluetooth with aptX
  • X-Fi audio engine
  • 20hr battery life
  • Manufacturer: Creative
  • Review Price: £89.99

Small MP3 players tend to get typecast as sporty gadgets - things to pin to clothing while you strut those pounds off. However, the Creative Zen X-Fi 3 isn't really geared toward sport. It doesn't have the clip of the SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip or Apple iPod Nano, or any sport features like a stopwatch or pedometer. What does the Zen X-Fi 3 have? Plenty of non sport-related features, but the small-but-thick body and simple-but-dated UI make us favour the Sonys, Apples and Cowons of this world.

The Creative X-Fi 3 is a curious bundle of contradictions. The first one to strike is that while this is a palm-sized MP3 player, it's pretty chunky. 14mm thick by our measurements, it's as chunky as the Sandisk Sansa Clip Zip - and much of that player's thickness is down to a robust belt clip. Creative Zen X-Fi 3 6

The impression the Creative X-Fi 3 leaves is one of a small brick. Some may find it cute, but now that players like the iPod Nano are well-established, it seems archaic. Forget about the chub factor and the look isn't too bad. The back and front are glossy black plastic, and its sides metallic grey plastic. One issue we encountered with the plastic-fronted screen was that it is quite scratch-happy, unlike the glass front of players like the iPod touch. After a few weeks rummaging around in your pocket with a pair of keys, it won't look so great.

However, as with many non-Apple MP3 players, the X-Fi 3 comes with its own share of hardware benefits. On its left edge is a rubber flap that covers the microSD slot. The £89 version of the player includes 8GB internal memory, but having the slot to use makes upping this to 40GB fairly cost-effective.

Creative Zen X-Fi 3 7

Another neat feature of the player is the internal speaker, which sits on its bottom. Nowadays, it's rare to see one in MP3 players, let alone small ones. It is something of a throwaway feature, though, producing sound quality and volume beaten by most smartphones.

Creative Zen X-Fi 3 5

To either side of this speaker sit the 3.5mm headphone jack and the miniUSB socket. Using this socket rather than the now much more common microUSB is another element that signposts the Creative X-Fi 3 isn't exactly cutting-edge.

Creative Zen X-Fi 3 4

To try and seem like it's in with the cool kids, the X-Fi 3 uses touch controls rather than clicky buttons, for the most part. There's a power/lock slider up top and volume control buttons on the right edge, but all menu navigation is handled using the five touch buttons in the front layer.

They are teeny little capacitive sensors, and handle library browsing and music playback. They don't feel particularly good, lacking any sort of feedback, and are frequently temperamental. Creative Zen X-Fi 3 1

It's a classic worst of both worlds situation - you can't feel around the player with a finger to change tracks while it's in your pocket and yet as each button is clearly labelled with a white icon, they don't even provide that seamless a look. We're glad Creative didn't use the resistive screen tech seen in the previous-gen X-Fi 2 player, but these touch buttons represent the most problematic part of the player.

newleafdecor

September 22, 2012, 3:16 pm

I purchased one of these on 17/09/2012. Mine proved to be nothing short of terrible, screen freezes, won't conect to my bluetooth earphones, speaker might as well not be there, tried to add countless videos and got 5 that it actually played. As for Creative customer service, worst ever! only option is to send an email to there customer support asking for a RMA number for returning device, NO number sent, just solutions to make the device work properly which I'd already tried and they didn't work. Still waiting as yet, this is the last purchase I'll ever buy from Creative. Putting my trust in Paypal to get me my money back. DON'T BUY THIS PRODUCT OR USE THE COMPANY.

Neville

January 8, 2013, 11:07 pm

I got a 32G replacement for my old X-Fi2 because it
developed a cracked screen that creative wouldn't sell a replacement for. I got
the X-Fi3 because I really liked the sound quality of the X-Fi2. I purchased it
as a package with the M300 wireless headphones. So far I have been disappointed
in its performance. Initially it took so long to bring up a menu that I ended
up resetting it. It is very very slow (as in a couple of minutes)to bring up
its menu after charging or connecting to the computer. The sound quality
doesn't seem to be as good comparing it to the X-Fi2. The M300's are the most
uncomfortable things I have worn and don't stay in place when walking, let
alone using them for running as I had planned. The SD card isn't integrated and
you can't make playlists that link to
the SD card. The alarm sounds once for about 15 sec and then stops although it
is very loud. Progressing through the menus is tedious as you have to scroll
through every item to get to the album you want. I liked the X-Fi2's alphabetical buttons, they made it
easier to find what you want. The touch buttons on the edge of the player are
accidentally activated at times if your fingers get near them when holding the
player. At other times touching them gives no response which can be very
frustrating (like the X-Fi2). When I need to get a replacement player it won't
be a Creative model!

mahyar

May 3, 2013, 5:04 pm

1000000000000% agree

alan

August 14, 2013, 12:20 pm

I agree - I have volume problem with Latest model Zen XF!-13. At full volume can only hear about half of my classical music. Creative not at all helpful. I have asked for a return authorisation but they constantly ignore me. I think that this is a case for the EU consumer advice !!

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