Creative ZiiO 7in review

Attractively priced Android tablet with disappointing performance
Photo of Creative ZiiO 7in
8GB, £199.99 inc, VAT; 16GB, £219.99

While we await iPad 2 killers running Android version 3.0 (‘Honeycomb’), there’s a small window of opportunity for companies who’ve rushed out tablets running version 2.2 of the operating system. In fact, while Creative is advertising the Ziio 7in as running Android 2.2, our review sample was one of the early batch, running Android 2.1.

Low price
The relatively old-hat OS is counterbalanced by some attractive prices. Two versions of the 7in ZiiO are on offer. One has 8GB of storage and costs £199.99; the other has 16GB and costs £219.99. Both have a side-mounted microSD card slot, enabling you to add more storage.

First impressions really count with tablets – the standard being set by the extremely well made iPad 2, of course. Sadly, the Creative ZiiO 7in doesn’t hit the spot. The white chassis feels a little below par, and the wide screen bezel makes the 7-inch 480×800-pixel screen look smaller than it really is.

Still, the edges are peppered with slots and connectors – including the microSD card slot we mentioned earlier, which sits on the left edge. On the bottom there’s a power slot – a small, round pin type. The right edge houses a volume rocker, and along the top there’s a mini-HDMI port, old-fashioned mini-USB (not microUSB) connector, headphone jack, on/off switch and a teensy microphone.

There are four touch buttons under the screen with Android Home, Search, Back and Menu functions mapped onto them. Above the screen sits a built-in VGA camera. This could be useful for video calling – if you can find an app to support it.

No ‘pinch to zoom’
The next bit of bad news is that Creative has cut costs by cutting corners. Chiefly by making the screen resistive, so that it doesn’t flow under the fingers like the best smartphone screens. Nor does it support multi-touch gestures such as ‘pinch to zoom’.

Creative supplies a stylus, but the chassis doesn’t include a slot to house it, so you’ll need to carry it around separately – and more than likely lose it. Another cutback is evident in the lack of 3G support, leaving Wi-Fi as your only access to external data and apps.

No access to Android Market
Apps. Aaah… and here’s another little problem. One of the great advantages of Android is that Google offers a fantastic app store, with tens of thousands of titles available at the Android Market. But with the ZiiO, you don’t get access to it.

Creative offers its own store, which lacks range and depth of applications. One example – Google Maps isn’t pre-installed, and isn’t in the store. There are ways round this, by installing apps via the web, but you shouldn’t have to find ways round such a fundamental attribute of Android.

Using the ZiiO
Creative has added its own custom interface or ‘skin’ to the standard Android front-end. It has been done with a fairly light touch, and it’s easy to work with. There are three home screens, and several bespoke apps, none of which are especially worthy of note.

The processor is quite slow – we had to wait for responses to screen taps even when we had no apps opened at all. Not for an inordinately long time, but long enough for us to notice it. Web browsing was also slow – and with no support for Flash, we couldn’t stream video, for example from the BBC web site.

Company: Creative

Website: http://uk.store.creative.com

Positives
  • Attractively priced; range of connections.
Negative
  • Resistive screen means no 'pinch to zoom'; no access to Android Market.

Verdict

The Creative ZiiO 7in has an attractive price, but it isn't a very good advertisement for Android tablets. You can bypass the on-board app store, but you shouldn't really have to do that to get good quality apps? And the slow processor doesn't make for smooth use. Our advice? Keep waiting. There'll be more - and better - Android tablets coming along soon, maybe even at a similar budget price.