Sunday, March 6, 2011

Creative Zen Touch 2 with GPS. My Review.


Creative is now making an Android-based Zen media player.  I'm delighted to see more companies jumping on the android bandwagon. When the Zen Touch 2 (I'll referred to it as the T2) with GPS became available on their web site (you can also order them on Amazon.com) I ordered one.  Mine arrived 2/28/2011, and since then I've been going through it in detail, hoping to find what special touches Creative could add to Android, if any.  As of now,  I'm not sure they did anything beyond putting their name on this device.
Aesthetically the only interesting detail Creative added to an otherwise boring T2 is a faceted back derived from their Zen Mosaic.   Don't consider this player if you want to impress your friends with your stylish choices.  The nicest software touch they added was a quick graphic on boot-up advising you to "Touch the Sound of Perfection".  After that you get another annoying slide-to-unlock screen then a typical Android UI. 

What's in the Box?  In addition to the 8gb (only 4.1gb available) Zen Touch 2 you get:
Dimensions
  • 120mm x 69mm x 13mm, 122g.  
  • 4.72" x  2.72" x .5", 4.3oz
  • For comparison:
    • The Cowon D3 is 116.4mm x 64.2mm x 11.8mm, 120g.
    • The Archos 43 is 135.0mm x 65.0mm x 9.00 mm, 132g
OS: Android 2.1, with hints (no promises) that it may eventually be updated to 2.2.
Controls and Ports (held horizontally with the Home button on the right):
  • Power button (left end). Hold in to power the T2 on or off.  Tap to toggle just the screen off/on.
  • Volume +/- (top edge)
  • Search, Back, and Menu/List buttons (touch sensitive, to the right of the LCD screen)
  • HOME button (oddly a mechanical push button on the front face)
  • Speaker port (5/16" x 1/16" slot on back)
  • Camera Lens (on back)
  • Mini USB port (right end)
  • Headphone jack (right end)
  • Video output (Composite, uses headphone jack and custom cable)
  • MicroSD slot (bottom edge under a rubber pull tab)
  • Microphone (small hole on bottom edge, labeled by white microphone icon)
This Zen's media apps:
  • Music: The T2 will play music in these formats:  MP3, AAC, WMA9, FLAC, OGG, ADPCM, MIDI, WAV, and Audible.  I was shocked to discover there is no Equalizer. No Presets. No user settings.  I had to dig out my ancient Zen 4gb to see if this was Creative's pattern or not (it is NOT).   The audio output was powerful enough to easily drive my large Sennheiser HD595 headphones. No gapless playback though.   Just the basics it seems.  On the Now Playing screen you get a small album art view. Controls are all visible and active including List, Shuffle and Repeat buttons, as well as the typical Prev(Rewind when held)/Play(pause)/Next(Fast Forward when held) buttons. Info displayed includes a song length/position slider bar, artist, album, and song title. A long press on the last three brings up a Music/Browser Search window to find all songs or web info that matches the item touched. The Now Playing screen simply rearranges the same info for landscape or portrait view.  A tap on the T2's menu icon will bring up options for Party Shuffle, Add to Playlist, Delete, and Library.  With no Equalizer though the Music app gets a B.
  • Gallery (used for video and photos): Both Video formats supported include H.264, MPEG4, WMV9, and AVI video.  Photo types include JPG, BMP, and PNG.  My Touch 2 played WMV, AVI, and MP4 video files fine,  although those that weren't the same width/height ratio as the screen had no way to be stretched to fit the screen. All you get when playing videos is the standard video Rew/Play/Ffwd and a length/position slider bar. No info, no submenu options, nothing. Don't buy the Touch 2 for videos.  Video gets a C- from me.  The Photo capabilities are only a little more useful.  No swipe to the next photo.  You have to tap on the screen to get a next or previous triangle to tap on. You also get a zoom (magnifying) in/out bar, a share icon, and a delete icon. Tap Share to bring up options for Bluetooth Object Push and Email.  You can also double-tap on the screen for one step of zooming in. Once zoomed in it is easy to pan around the photo.  Using the magnifying bar there are 13 steps of zoom, which does a fine job of bringing up the tiniest details in a photo.   Tap the T2's menu button for a few more options including Rotate, Delete, Crop, Details, and More. More adds Show on Maps, Slideshow, Settings (for slideshow), and another Push Image by Bluetooth choice. Slideshow Settings are more complete than usual.  Where both Videos and Photo suffer is from the poor screen quality.  Photos get a B- from me for leaving out the easiest way to see the next photo.
  • FM Radio with RDS!  You need headphones plugged in to use the radio.  The Radio app will warn you to plug them in if they are not, and although the radio app will open it won't turn on without the headphones.  The app is fairly complete. You get a station slider bar, Off/On button, scan forward and back buttons, frequency up and down (in .05 steps) buttons, an add-to- presets (+) button, and a Presets List button which includes the AutoTune choice. If the station tuned to includes RDS info it will display above the frequency displayed. No HD-Radio reception. No option to delete a preset from the list that I could find. No recording of Radio that I could find. Radio will play in the background while you run other apps that don't have their own audio.  To turn it off you need to tap the power icon in the app, or run another program with its own audio (like Music). With no recording or preset delete I have to give FM Radio a B.
Other hardware features include:
  • Bluetooth - 2.1 EDR:  So far I've found it supports file transfer, stereo audio to headphone or speakers.  My bluetooth keyboards would pair but not connect. Audio quality over bluetooth to my Sony BT50s is on the better side of typical. All controls over media play worked both from the headset and the player.
  • WiFi - IEEE 802.11 b/g/n:  No problems connecting to my Dlink n-capable router. Signal strength is as good as on any other 802.11n device I've reviewed, no matter where in my house I wandered to.    
  • GPS: I'll need to find a GPS enabled app to give this a test.  Stay tuned.
  • Compass: Seems to work.  Found north just fine using a compass app.  Not sure how useful it will be, but am optimistic it will eventually come in handy.
  • Accelerometer: The UI and direction-sensitive apps react quickly when the T2 is rotated. Nothing else to test it with.  Another "stay tuned".
  • Camera:  The camera will take still photos at 1600 x 1200 (2mp) or 640 x 480 as JPGs. Video taken is MP4 (H.264) at 21fps and 360kbps, 640 x 480 pixels. Video doesn't play back very smooth.  The camera app is pretty complete, with white balance, quality, GPS (location) tagging, effects settings, crop and delete, etc.. No zoom to speak of.  No flash.  The lens is fixed-focus and cheap. It is also easily blocked by your finger when holding the T2 naturally.
Web Browser: Works best with mobile web pages.  The low resolution hinders usefulness on classic web pages. A double tap works as expected, stretching columns to fit the screen width. Panning and scrolling is responsive and smooth. I recommend using a stylus if you expect to be accurate tapping on tiny links. Settings include options to Add a bookmark, Find on Page, Select Text, Page Info, Share Page, Downloads, and page content settings.  You can choose from Text Size, Default Zoom, Text Encoding,   Open Pages in overview, Block Pop-up windows, Load images, Landscape only, Enable Javascript, Enable Plug-ins, Open in Background, and Set Home Page.  In addition there are privacy settings to Clear cache, Clear History, Accept cookies, Clear all cookie data, Remember form data, Clear form data, Enable location, Clear location access, Remember passwords, Clear passwords, Show security settings, and even more advanced options. With exceptions for the low-res screen The Web Browser is very complete. Almost a joy to use on the Touch 2. Web Browser earns an A.

UI:  The android UI will turn horizontal or vertical depending on how you hold the T2, but only 90 degrees one way. The screen is sensitive and very responsive, but graphics do not instantly react like those on an iPod Touch. There are only three home page screens.  This will prove limiting after you start adding apps.   You get just 4 widgets including an analog clock, bluetooth control (PureAndroidAudio),  Power Control, and Search.  You can add Widgets, Shortcuts, or Folders to any or all home screens.  You can also choose the wallpaper (background) from 10 included photos, your own photos, or 4 different colors.  You can adjust the brightness of the screen from Settings-Display or the Power Widget.   Viewing angles are decent in one axis and limited in the other, typical for the inexpensive LCD screen used.   Other than for the poor choice of screen the UI response is as good as any other android device I've reviewed. Limited pages and included apps/widgets lead me to giving UI a B-.
Conclusion:  For a device with so many hardware features it is a shame Creative went with such a poor screen. The Touch 2 is almost as large as my Archos 43, but the 3.2" 480 x 320 screen is significantly smaller and less than half the resolution. Poor video playback and no audio equalizer round out the flaws.  There appears to be plenty of processing power. Audio output is strong. Bluetooth is great and FM radio with RDS is appreciated.  Is it worth $199?  The 8g Archos 43 is also $199 but comes with a better screen, better UI, more functional WiFi and Bluetooth features and remains my favorite device for now. So NO. The Touch-2 with GPS is NOT a good value at its current price.

4D

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50 comments:

  1. Oh, sad to hear that Creative made yet another unpolished product...

    -Michael

    ReplyDelete
  2. Not so much unpolished, Michael. If they update it to android 2.2 or later, then lower the price to $169 or so, the Touch 2 with GPS would be the best product in the price range. Right now the Archos 43 and 32 have $150 and $200 well covered.

    ReplyDelete
  3. hey its great touch pad...
    it has every thing...
    i like it..
    thanks...

    best laptop reviews

    ReplyDelete
  4. I just received my Touch 2 a few days ago and am a bit disappointed also...had a ZEN Vision M previously. Now I am wondering what software one can use to organize the music on the player...like how can i set up and maintain a playlist or change music information? Only via Windows Media Player? Is there no Creative software for this player?
    Thanks,

    Sonja

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Sonja: WMP works fine with the Touch 2. I don't have any experience with anything else besides itunes. As for adding/changing id3 info itunes is great for that, and it is free even if you don't have an iPod.

    4D

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  6. is there a pre installed gps app with the zen touch 2? is it satellite based or will the usage be charged data?

    ReplyDelete
  7. @Jocelyn: Nothing pre-installed. GPS apps you install on your own will work though, including Google Maps and Navigation. No data charges as the GPS chip uses satellite info, and there is no cell(2g/3g/4g) radio in the Touch 2.

    4D

    ReplyDelete
  8. if you got the zen touch 2 with gps how much actual storage space will you have? i know it says 8gb but does having the gps feature reduce the storage space? also when you install apps does that take up more of your storage space? how will adding a memory card effect this? can you store music on the card and play directly from it? sorry im not familiar with this!

    ReplyDelete
  9. @Anonymous: I had 4.1gb space free on mine. I emailed Creative and the confirmed that was correct. Adding apps consumes some of that space. Music on an inserted microSD card is mixed with a plays fine on the Touch 2.

    4D

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  10. thank you very much that helps alot! Im excited to get mine!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Very good review, thank you! :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. How does the T2 compare to the x-fi2??

    The only mp3 player I've ever had was a Creative Zen Micro, but it died last year. I loved it to death so I would like to get another Creative. I wish they had created an evolution of the Zen Micro that was more similar to that one.
    I was looking at the T2 because I figured that since it is their second try at touch screen and suches it would be a bit better.

    ReplyDelete
  13. T2 has WiFi, android apps, GPS (on the model reviewed) and no equalizer (yet). Quite a bit different.

    My x-Fi2 review is here: http://4dthinker.blogspot.com/2009/10/creative-x-fi2-review-touchscreen.html

    4D

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  14. Owing to their execellent sound quality, I'm a big fan of Creative MP3 players. The Touch 2 doesn't shine, although I might buy one at a low price on closeout. Is the MicroSD a seamless memory intergration?. Can the GPS work independently in your car, away from wifi?
    Thanks a lot for the review. You have the only Touch 2 review written by an actual user I've seen.

    ReplyDelete
  15. @anonymous: Yes, Music on microSD is integrated with any that is onboard. GPS works without WiFi, but not with google maps. You need a navigation app that comes with its own map content.

    4D

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  16. I can not get mine to work with droid market it says that there is not a droid registered to my google account but I can not find where to register it any ideas? Also what is a good navigation app that comes with its own map content?

    RR

    ReplyDelete
  17. @RR: Creative has it's own Ziio site where you can download apps for the T2. Amazon.com also has an android AppStore app you can put on the T2 for direct downloading of apps. I can't help you with the droid market.

    TelNav and Mapquest are two navigations apps for android. I have tried neither.

    4D

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  18. Good news! Creative's promised the Froyo upgrade for the end of the present month (April) or the next month... You can confirm it at the Creative's facebook. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi! I really enjoy yours reviews. just got 1 question: between zen touch 2 and archos 43 internet tablet which one would you choose for music, movies and internet browsing (just normal sides like: facebook, news etc) cheers Rob

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  20. The Archos 43 has a much higher resolution screen. So get the 43 for your uses, Rob.

    4D

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  21. I find Creative product support to be evasive when answering emailed questions. Do you have it on PERSONAL experience that the GPS will work with Google Maps or other map software? Thank you. This product might be tempting on close out.

    ReplyDelete
  22. So far I haven't tested anything but Google maps. With GPS on and WiFi connected it was able to locate me. When Wifi was off it lost track of me after I moved out of the map range it had buffered when connected.

    4D

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  23. This review has really helped me and i thank you.
    I am having the hardest time getting used to its next to impossible screen sensitivity and all its general gadgetry ...ive even gone back to my ipod and i cant stand my ipod!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Been a Creative fan for a while, sad that it's not amazing, but thank you very much for your informative review

    ReplyDelete
  25. I do have a question you might be able to help with. Besides the audio and vid features, the real reason I purchased this unit was to get FULL-BLOWN calendar synch with MS OUTLOOK. Have you had any chance to test that (or could you squeeze it in, please)? Assuming you would have to pull an ANDROID app in to synch with OUTLOOK, tho' not sure about that. Thanks for your review, it was quite helpful... I'm just looking to see if maybe you've tested the synch for OUTLOOK calendar(s) yet?

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  26. Sorry, but I don't use outlook.

    4D

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  27. Can you use Itunes on this Device? Thanks :)

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  28. iTunes on a PC won't recognize the Touch-2, but the Touch-2 should have no trouble playing your iTunes music so long as it doesn't have any DRM in it. All you need to do is find the directory the iTunes music is in, then drag and drop it onto the device. As for iTunes on a Mac, I have no idea.

    4D

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  29. At the same time, most of the time the Archos 43 has buttons clogging up the right side of the screen. How would you compare the usability of the touch-screens? Also I would like to know what wifi and blutooth functionality the Archos has that the Zen does not have.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Denial: Both screen are very responsive for resistive screens. No complaints at all.

    WiFi on the Archos devices supports streaming from your home network. The Touch-2 doesn't, although there may be an app for that.

    Bluetooth on the Archos supports mice and keyboards, as well as headphones and speakers. I couldn't get the Touch-2 to use my bluetooth keyboards.

    4D

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  31. I bought the non-GPS T2, thinking the promised available Android 2.2 would install. Fooled me ... The upgrade is only for GPS versions of the T2. Big disappointment, as I wanted the Flash interface. Also, no equalizer on the sound player. Lack of apps is a big drawback. Some of the web page displays are impossible to read they are so small and the bad resolution, and if you zoom in, the loss of context makes it hard to understand what is going on. It would have been my 4th creative product, but it's going back.

    ReplyDelete
  32. There is a seperate Android 2.2 download for the non-GPS Touch-2, Ticoman. The file is 70.7mb for the GPS enabled Touch-2, but only 70.6mb for yours.

    Go to: http://support.creative.com/Products/Products.aspx?catid=948 and select your model.

    4D

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  33. the Creative touch 2 is now on sale at the creative store. 150€/160$ for the GPS version (nice exchange rate Creative ...).

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  34. had to send it back. I got a GPS version. Upgraded to android 2.2.

    still locks up once in a while.
    GPS does not work in most of the locations, and when it finds the current location and you click 'search restaurants' for example -- using Google Maps -- it never comes back.

    Contacted customer support, they said that google maps is not their app and that I should contact google. However Google maps is the product listed to be used on Zen's site -- as the prerequisite for the GPS. So it is a circle of incompetence around this unit, GPS and the support.

    Sound quality improved after the 2.2 upgrade.
    But still no equalizer.

    I returned the unit.

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  35. I listen to Overdrive WMA audiobooks on my Creative Zen. I like the program - it has an audiobook bookmark feature, so you can go to fm radio, then go back to your audiobook at the correct spot. I'd like to upgrade to the touch 2 so that I could check e-mail and do basic web searches, AND have the audiobook capability. Does the touch 2 have a bookmark feature for audiobooks?

    ReplyDelete
  36. There is no bookmark function, but if you pause the playing file in the music app, hit home, then pick the FM app, then hit the power-off icon in the FM app, hit back arrow, then tap the music app again, your last playing file will be waiting there at the position you left it at. This works through a sleep (screen off) but not a power down/up cycle.

    ReplyDelete
  37. So, it won't pick up where I left off after a power down/up? Well, I'm going to be turning the device off at some point during a 16 hour audiobook.... I guess I just have to keep looking. Thanks for great information that I have not found anywhere else (even on Creative's website!)

    ReplyDelete
  38. at the moment it is $179.95.
    do you think that it is worth the money?
    Please tell me soon,

    thanks

    ReplyDelete
  39. $180 is a good price. Of course lower is always better. This Creative is well spec'ed except for the screen, but the screen does work. The competition tends to be in the same range. Get one if you want one. Keep the receipt.

    4D

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  40. So,
    what price do you think is good for it?
    I haven't got one yet but i am considering it.

    Please respond soon

    ReplyDelete
  41. Creative themselves have it marked down to $160. That's a pretty good price for the GPS model. If I didn't already have one I'd spend that for one today.

    http://us.store.creative.com/Creative-ZEN-Touch-2-MP3-Player/M/B004EW0P9G.htm

    4D

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  42. on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being garbage and 10 being flawless. how well does the GPS work?

    thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  43. I'll give GPS on this player a 7. Not stellar but stepping outside, wifi turned off, it found my location within a minute.

    4D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks very much. I just ordered mine, and right after I read that it can only be used if you are within Wifi range. thanks for clarifying!

      Delete
  44. I am yet to find an app that lets me use the GPS without wi-fi enabled. Do you know of one?

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  45. Google Maps will let you download the area of travel while in Wifi Range so you can use GPS when out of range. No Google apps? You can find a "hack to install them. Search the web. Still, this is another reason I don't (and didn't) recommend this player.

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  46. How does it work with the Android apps I'm looking at it for my little lad and I was wondering if u can download angry birds etc?

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  47. I have the Zen Touch 2 and I have been trying to use the MicroSD function. However, the music files I transferred into the MicroSD just won't integrate with the ones in the player. I can only view the songs in the music folder separately, when I remove the MicroSD to view songs in internal memory and vice versa. Help please?

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  48. I have a question regarding the Creative ZEN Touch 2 8GB Android MP3 Player. I only use the Zen for listening to audiobooks. Does this model have bookmarking capabilities? I would appreciate knowing this before I order one. Thanks

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  49. Bookmarking will be dependent on which app you use to listen to Audiobooks. If the android audiobook app you use on other devices support bookmarking, then it'll support bookmarks on this device.

    4D

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