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Photos: Creative Zen X-Fi

After much anticipation, we finally got our greedy little hands on the Creative Zen X-Fi. While we put the player through its paces for the in-depth review, we thought you'd appreciate a closer look. One thing we can tell you off the bat: the Zen X-Fi is an incredible value given all the features, but we're a bit disappointed that it's encased in plastic rather than metal.

Jasmine France
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1 of 12 CNET Networks/Corinne Schulze
The Zen X-Fi photographs really well, but sadly, this is a bit misleading. The player is encased entirely in plastic and the faceplate is not seamlessly wrapped around the edge of the device. As a result, we've already begun to experience some warping at the bottom edge of the faceplate. Given the low cost-to-feature ratio, we can forgive Creative somewhat for this, but we're hoping the warping is only an issue with early models and will be addressed going forward.
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Creative is selling two versions of the Zen X-Fi: a Wi-Fi model in 16GB and 32GB versions, and an 8GB version without the Wi-Fi. All of the models are extremely competitively priced, given all of the out-of-the-box features available. The 8GB sells for $149.99, while the 16GB and 32GB sell for $199 and $279, respectively. All of them are available in just one color option: black with silver trim.
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Creative has carried over the lovely screen from the Zen. Photos look vibrant and bright, with excellent color saturation and good detail--and the viewing angle from side to side is excellent. The interface is straightforward and lovely to look at, right down to the transparent icons on the main menu. The X-Fi is noticeably thicker than the Zen, though, no doubt because of the wireless antenna.
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The Creative Zen X-Fi also includes the usual array of features we've come to expect from the line: FM radio with autoscan and presets, bookmarking, voice recording, and support for Audible and subscription music.
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Nothing to complain about here. The right spine of the player houses a standard 3.5mm headphone jack as well as a standard mini USB port for charging and syncing. The reset button is a little larger and less recessed than on previous Zens, meaning you can activate it with a ball-point pen or similar device. (Before, you would have needed something even skinnier.)
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The top side of the X-Fi features the SD card slot first introduced on the Zen. Unfortunately, Creative did not remedy the integration issue: content stored on the card must be accessed via a separate menu and does not integrate into your main library. There's also a pinhole mic for making voice recordings, which can be split on the device itself--nifty.
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Creative includes a nine-digit keypad (like on a phone) to leave room for add-on applications going forward. Still, the control pad is pretty straightforward for basic functions. The surrounding buttons--play/pause, contextual menu, back, and shortcut--have sharp edges, another indicator of the cheap construction in our book. They seem unfinished, but work just fine.
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The Zen X-Fi is packed with features, the most exciting of which are the X-Fi Crystalizer and Wi-Fi. The wireless functionality lets you stream music from a media server of your choosing from anywhere that you can get on Wi-Fi. It also allows for a feature that we've never seen on an MP3 player: chat.
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You can send other users "winks," which are Creative's emoticons.
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Just like with an instant-messaging client, you can designate your mood. Cute.
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Creative lets you create a personal profile (if desired) for chat online, but you can design your avatar on the device itself. If you choose not to have a profile, you can log on to chat as a guest.
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The Wi-Fi XFis include a set of new Creative headphones, a $50 value. The EP-830 earphones will be sold separately through Creative at a later date, for those that want to upgrade the 8GB XFi or other Zen players.

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