Creative is well-known in the PMP world for offering a value-for-money alternative to big hitters like Archos and Apple, and at just £130 the X-Fi2 follows in that tradition.
The plucky successor to the X-Fi has dropped Wi-Fi and picked up a touchscreen, so it can still claim credit-crunch chic. But with its lack of bells and whistles offset by FLAC support, it clearly has a different set of priorities to its touchscreen rivals.
Music fans who don't need Wi-Fi, tens of thousands of apps or an empty wallet will rejoice in the X-Fi2's ballsy sound quality, enhanced by the Xtreme Fidelity chip.
And there's an FM radio for sports and natter fans, plus FLAC support, which ought to get audiophiles' pulses racing like a shot of sonic digitalis.
The X-Fi2 is no multi-tasking supergadget, and videos lack panache on the 3in screen. Pick up an A/V cable from Creative (£18) and you can feed composite video directly into a TV. Handy for occasional use, perhaps, but the quality won't satisfy true videophiles.
That said, the X-Fi2 plays well to its strengths: you won't find another touchscreen device with FLAC support for this price, and if you do, it won't sound nearly as good.
Another neat trick is the microSD slot that lets you double the memory and transfer media with a card reader instead of USB. It supports high-capacity cards up to 16GB.
Review continues after the break...
It's a shame Creative hasn't put as much thought into the resistive touchscreen. Resistive by name, resistive by nature – it is at times too stubborn to admit it has been prodded. Luckily, the interface is an unfussy affair, and prolonged use should train even the clumsiest fingers.
Having a touchscreen is all well and good, but failing to offer a physical volume control means hiking or dimming the volume is a frustrating out-of-pocket job.
The bundled buds have excellent clarity and confident delivery of bass and mid-range. Unfortunately, Creative didn't see fit to extend its expertise to the built-in speaker, which shared none of these virtues.
At a time when watching our wallets has become a national past time, Creative has dispensed with fluffy media features and gone for the jugular: sound quality. And for that, it should be applauded.