Creative ZiiO 7″ Tablet Review - Where to Buy

By on April 21, 2011

A good first attempt for a tablet that sounds weaker than it is.

Creative ZiiO 7" Tablet Review
Its a bit hard reviewing the Creative ZiiO- especially after you’ve played with the iPad for almost a year. This resistive-screen Android 2.x based tablet feels outdated by simply reading the specs. But we’ve seen many times before that specs don’t always tell the complete story. Can the ZiiO, even with lower specs have what it takes to compete? Lets find out.

We recived the 7” version of the Creative ZiiO which comes packaged in a nice little green box along with a charger, a stylus, a USB cable and a quick-start guide. Seperately, Creative also sent us their Bluetooth based WP300 headphones to test the audio quality of the ZiiO.

The Creative ZiiO is a nice looking tablet with a screen size similar to the 7” Samsung Galaxy Tab. It has dimensions of 207.4 x 133 x 13.7mm and weighs 400grams which makes it slightly larger and heavier than the Galaxy Tab that has dimensions of 190.1 x 120.5 x 12 mm and weighs 380 grams. The reason for the larger size on the ZiiO is the bigger sized bezel surrounding the unit. Thankfully, the white color of the bezel doesn’t really make the unit appear much bigger unless directly stuck next to the Tab.

On the top of the unit, you have a 3.5mm audio jack along with an HDMI connector and a USB port. It would have been nice if the ZiiO could’ve been charged from this USB port but that does not seem to be the case. The power/lock button is also located here and a bit too recessed making the unit sometimes a bit harder to turn on. On the right you have volume buttons while the bottom has a power connector. Lastly the left side has a MicroSD card slot.

The front of the Creative ZiiO is dominated by the 7” resistive touch screen with a front-facing camera above it and four touch buttons below it. Sadly, there is no backlight whatsoever for these buttons and since they are touch based, its almost impossible to tap on them in dark environments- I’m not sure how that slipped through Creative’s testing of the unit as these buttons are very frequently used on Android based tablets.

Coming to the specs, the ZiiO is powered by the ZiiLABS ZMS-08 HD Media-Rich Applications Processor. This is basically an ARM Cortex-A8 CPU running at 1GHz. The ZiiO has with 512MB of RAM and comes in 8GB or 16GB of storage capacities. On the connectivity side, you get 802.11b/g wireless networking and Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP support.

We received the upgraded version of the ZiiO- equipped with Android 2.2 Froyo which was recently released for all ZiiO owners. I can’t really talk about how the unit operated before the upgrade but as it currently stands, the device is about as usable as any other Android 2.2 based tablet. It's pretty zippy moving across the OS or launching applications. Even watching videos didn't cause any stuttering. For those interested in numbers, the ZiiO completed the SunSpider test in 7859ms compared to the Galaxy Tab’s 6624 and 12140 on the Viewsonic ViewPad.

Creative adds a few applications and hides others which can be a bit of a pain for someone used to Android. For example, there is no option to add a Gmail account in the “Accounts and Sync” setting. Instead, you chose to add a regular email and then use your GMail details. Also, there is no Arabic support on the ZiiO. I know that Android doesn’t offer native support but it would have been nice if Creative had added a 3rd party app for units sold in the Middle East.

On the applications side, Creative adds ZiiVideo and ZiiMusic players along with ZiiPhoto, ZiiExplorer and a nice looking notepad application which you can use with the stylus to take notes. The following video demonstrates some of these applications.

[brightcove video="912848140001" /]

The most important component of a tablet is the screen and Creative has made somewhat of an odd decision with the ZiiO. While almost every current tablet uses the finger-friendly capacitive screen, Creative has chosen the stylus friendly resistive screen on their ZiiO. However, unlike the resistive screens used in older mobile phones, the one on the ZiiO works reasonably well with your fingers. By reasonably well, I mean that you can easily navigate the web, play angry birds and work your way around the OS with your fingers.

Occasionally, you do end up tapping when you really wanted to flick or vice versa. Where the resistive screen shows a bit of weakness is when you try to use the onscreen keyboard with your fingers. Truth be told, I was expecting a pretty bad experience using the onscreen keyboard on the ZiiO but it actually turned out pretty OK. Yes, a capacitive screen is better but at no point was I frustrated with the ZiiO while typing on it. In fact, with the screen pressing ever so slightly when you tap on it- typing "feels" good on the ZiiO.

Where the screen suffers is with it’s low resolution- exactly the complain we had with the ViewSonic ViewPad 7 which also features a 7” (capacitive) screen with a 480x800 resolution. The low resolution doesn’t makes the text and images appear very sharp and even though the screen on the ZiiO supports 16.7 milion colors, it appears a  bit washed-up.

Where the ZiiO shines is in the audio department- thanks to the X-Fi crytallizer. This should not come as a surprise as the one thing that Creative is known for is good audio. The onboard speakers are pretty loud on the ZiiO but connect them to a good set of speakers such as the WP300 Bluetooth headset I recieved and you really enjoy the experience.

Creative also adds an HDMI port on the ZiiO allowing you to easily connect the device to your big screen making the ZiiO a good device to take on vacation with your kids. In fact, the resistive screen with its stylus can be utilized very well by kids by focusing on their writing and drawing skills- lets face it, as good as a capacitive screen is, it’s hard to write or draw precisely on one.

Wrapping things off, the battery life on the ZiiO is quite impressive thanks to the 5,000mAh lithium-ion battery. I only charged the device three times in the two weeks that I had the device. Especially impressive is the extremely minimal usage when the unit is on standby. In the last couple of days, the battery on the ZiiO went from 16% to 5% even after some light browsing and watching a small video or two. Speaking of movies, the unit got slightly warm from the back when watching videos for a few minutes. Not alarmingly hot though.

Priced at AED 1199, the Creative ZiiO is tad just a bit pricier than what I think it should've been to make it really stand out. I say this because the iPad sells for 1699 and offers twice the capacity as well as the larger screen. However, that still doesn't make the ZiiO a bad product- far from it actually. In fact, I'd be surprised if Creative isn't working on the second generation of ZiiO already.
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