The 7in form factor has become a tablet standard, alongside the alternative ~10-inch size used by the iPad series and many upcoming Android 3.0 tablets. Tablets like the 7in Ziio 7 are much easier to use single-handed, but some argue that they're simply too small to be of much use. Whether or not this is true often depends on the quality of experience, rather than sheer size.
Here, the Ziio sits in a middle ground. The 800x480-pixel display, when stretched across seven inches, isn't detailed enough to make small text look sharp and colours appear washed-out thanks to the average-quality panel. However, the touchscreen is very responsive for a resistive model, making browsing and day-to-day navigation quick and largely frustration-free.
Compared to a long-running UI like HTC Sense, the Ziio's custom UI does have a negative effect on the tablet's performance, slowing it down more than we'd expect from a 1GHz processor-powered device. However, you're free to change the UI should you wish - we installed the LauncherPro home screen app and found it improved this slow-down effect. It's still not as snappy as a smartphone powered by the same processor though.
Fresh out of the box, the Creative Ziio 7 is a tablet that's packed full of compromises and niggles, but many can be solved or ameliorated with an hour or two of searching and tweaking. It's not the way we'd ideally like to approach a shiny new tablet, but at this stage there are precious few worthwhile alternatives available for less than Â£200.
There are problems that aren't so easily solved though. Thanks to the core Android 2.1 OS running underneath, the Ziio 7 doesn't include Flash 10.1 support, even though it's listed as a tentpole capability of the ZiiLABS ZMS-08 processor within Creative's own blurb. Creative has promised an Android 2.2 update for the tablet, which will both add Flash and give the tablet a welcome speed boost, but we can only judge this tablet as it is now - we've spent too many months waiting on tenterhooks for Android updates in the past.
The resistive screen also means that multi-touch gestures are not possible, so there's no pinch-zooming when browsing the net or looking at photos. No amount of software optimisation will be able to tack-on this feature, so if it's a must-have for you, walk away now. Creative has thoughtfully included a pen-like stylus to make using the resistive touchscreen more accurate, but there's unfortunately nowhere to keep it within the Ziio 7's body. Either bung it in a pocket or - more likely - leave it stashed in a cupboard somewhere at home, forgotten. With five hours of battery life when playing video, the Ziio 7 has enough juice for a couple of movies, but it falls well below the stamina of the 10-hour iPad - and also below the 6-7 hours offered by the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Archos 101.