Performance Testing - Continued
Going into testing of the Zen Style's ability to play video files, I was expecting a 'there about's' level of performance. However, what I found was again impressive with Creative's demo videos playing back very smoothly with a good solid contrast ratio and a decent amount of sharp focused clarity on what was being presented.
So, what we have here then, is a very capable little screen indeed.
The resolution seems to grow magically as the transition between desktop and photo album gets made, as is also the case when watching a video file.
The contrast ratio is very good, as are the blacks, which are deep and fixed. Overall sharpness is fine, with good almost noiseless reproduction of the steel cables on the famous 'San Francisco' suspension bridge (see above). Which is a good test, and may be the reason such an image would find itself factory pre-loaded.
Playback of music files is one of the most important jobs the Zen Style will be tasked with. But don't think Creative came to the battle without weapons.
That armory comes dressed as 'X-Fi' and consists of an algorithm called a Crystallizer and another called Expander.
The first restores the dynamics of compressed digital music by analyzing the file in real time and acting to identify particular low and high frequency regions which may have suffered a data loss during compression.
These regions then get restored to their (partial) former glory (it's not better than an original CD) and all is well once again in the world of sound.
I say its not better than the original because, well, it's not. However, the Crystallizer does an absolutely marvelous job at exactly what it sets out to do which is make your compressed music sound a serious deal better than it currently does.
I'll say straight up now that I feel (and have felt for some time) that the X-Fi Crystallizer is equal to or better than ANY algorithm I have used over the years.
Let me tell you why.
The difference between the Crystallizer and a standard EQ preset is that the aforementioned does so much more than simply boost the bass and treble an amount.
You see, it's in the way that the Crystallizer actually makes a real time analysis of the scene (file) and decides where the restoration needs to be applied in order to rejuvenate the squashed music into something closer to what came on the original disc.
If I may digress for a moment, I tested the X-Fi chipset way back on what I felt was a very impressive PCI soundcard some two years ago or there abouts. Back then I could not believe what a difference this algorithm made to my digital music collection. I was very impressed, and back then before ASUS went all 'audiophile' on us this was the bees proverbial and the chipset to have by a light-year.
Moving back to present day now and I cannot state how happy I am to see this technology being moved across onto portable devices.
I urge all music lovers too test one of the 'Zen' siblings from Creative before buying any other media player. And yes, it sounds much nicer than the Apple portables. You heard it here.