The iPod alternatives

The iPod alternatives

Creative Zen X-Fi Style

Zen X-Fi Style is a non-touch-screen PMP (portable music player) with aesthetics similar to Zen MX or the Zen Style 300. We received the compact 8 GB model which has a glossy black and grey chequered top portion contrasted by a solid white plastic rear finish. The X-Fi Style also has nine operational buttons.

The home screen has menus stacked on top of each other. As you go up and down on the navigation pad, the menu expands along with an icon on the right side. It is self-explanatory and easy to navigate.

Similar to the Zen X-Fi 2, the X-Fi Style also has an RSS reader, although you need to connect to a system connected to the Internet and manually add feeds in the RSS synchroniser.

Pink Floyd’s Time was quite good during the instrumental intro—especially the high-pitched sounds of the alarms ringing—but the separation was not that impressive when the vocal portions come along. Also, at higher volumes one can hear mild distortion. The highs in Therion’s O Fortuna were not at all good. There was definite clipping of higher frequencies.

The player is very responsive in the mid-frequency range. Bass is quite poor in most tracks. It is priced decently, but you will have to invest in a decent pair of earphones as the bundled-in earphones aren’t good.

Sony Walkman NWZ-A845

With the A-series NWZ-A845, Sony has come out with its answer to the iPod 5G sans the camera. Coming in a sleek form factor, the A845 has a 2.8 inch OLED screen, metallic buttons which have a round dial-type design and Sony EX noise-cancelling earphones. It has a sturdy plastic rear side, and a capacity of 16 GB. The volume rocker and hold button are present along the right-hand edge.

The home page comprises nine menus, including music, video, photos and noise cancellation, among others. Media can be transferred by connecting the bundled USB cable. The option button opens up contextual options. You have a lot of options to play around with, such as the VPT surround sound, equalizer settings and sound enhancement.

Sound quality is quite good thanks in part to the noise-cancelling Sony EX earphones. It was able to produce great sound across the entire spectrum. Bass was quite noticeable in Massive Attack’s Angel. Sound separation in Floyd’s Money and Time was brilliant.

The video quality is the strong point of this PMP. It is far superior to anything we have seen on a 2.8-inch compact so far. The contrast is stunning. It throws up error messages if a format is not playable on the PMP. Sadly it does not support a wide range of formats. You will have to import playlists either from Windows Media player or iTunes, but you cannot create playlists on the go, which is strange. Screen display goes for a toss in sunlit conditions.

This player is quite decently priced for the features and performance it offers. It does have some minor flaws, such as not being able to add songs to the playlist while on the move and limited formats support.

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