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As a highly portable tablet, the Creative Ziio 7 is perfect for watching the odd TV episode on the train or bus, and its hardware is up to the task too. The 1GHz A8 Cortex CPU at the heart of the ZiiLABS ZMS-08 processor can handle 720p video, and so has no problem with any regular codec video files encoded within the limits of the Ziio 7's non-HD 800x480 pixel screen.
Video codec support isn't world-beating, missing out rmvb and FLV, but the now-popular MKV container format is included. We tried the built-in media player out with an assortment of MKV files and only struggled with high-end 1080p files, which refused to play altogether because of their high resolutions.
Picture quality is much better than Archos Internet Tablet rivals. Where Archos's models show-up all digital artefacting, and often seem to pixellate parts of an image not all-that low-res in the source file, the Ziio's picture was nicely smoothed-out. The quality of the LCD screen limits video-viewing pleasure though.
Viewing angles are, again, better than Archos's models but the washed-out look of the screen robs images of their vibrancy. Even the over-saturated animated of the Shrek films looks a little too muted on the Ziio 7. It wins back some points with its brightness, which can be blasted up - at the expense of battery life - to make viewing vids in less-than-optimum light conditions possible. And if you're going to take the tablet on your work commute, these conditions will be the norm come the summer months, hopefully.
Creative also puts an emphasis on the audio quality of the Ziio 7 in its marketing, and it has some reason to shout about it, having forged a deal with Wolfson to include its WM8352 chip in the tablet. Wolfson is the company behind many of the audio chips used in higher-end quality-centric MP3 players over the past decade.
Music quality is decent, but when using headphones there's still a slight electrical interference noise created when the touchscreen's used. At the head of Creative's audio claims for the Ziio though are its Crystalizer and Expand X-Fi settings. These are audio processing add-ons that can switched-on when playing media, claiming to "intelligently restore lost detail" and supply the "most acoustically natural sound staging".
In practice, these settings had very little effect on the sound produced - and if a buyer is so obsessed with restoring "lost detail", why wouldn't they encode their music files at a higher bit-rate to avoid losing detail in the first place? We do like the extra effort Creative put in to make linking to Bluetooth headphones easy though, with integration within the media player itself, as when walking about a tablet's much more likely to be left in a bag than a phone or MP3 player. Bluetooth headphones are not included as part of the package, mind - Creative kindly suggests its own WP-300 earphones as a good match.
At present, the Creative Ziio 7 is one of the best sub-Â£200 tablet solutions available. In several respects it is superior to Archos's 7in 70 Internet Tablet, and it's significantly cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the Viewsonic ViewPad 7. If you need an affordable tablet right now, it's a good buy. But the tablet market about to change completely, so if you can grab hold of the reins and tame that urge to buy for a few months, we recommend doing so.
The Creative Ziio's screen's colours look washed-out, its built-in app store is horrible and it uses an outmoded resistive touchscreen, but it's still one of the best sub-Â£200 tablets money can buy. Video playback is decent, it's a good-looking device and with a bit of know-how and an hour or two's tinkering you can seriously boost its functionality.
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