The scroll wheel is still mechanical, and on this review unit has a very smooth glide with very little play. In a lot of ways this feels very similar to my original X5. I would have preferred a slightly stronger tactile response similar to the X3ii – and Fiio says that the final units will indeed be changed for firmer more tactile feedback. For those who have been annoyed in the past with the inaccuracy of the wheel – one click still does not equal one menu movement. It is what it is – and I still have no issues with navigation personally. If you’re someone who has a pet hate with the Fiio wheel navigation system though – there hasn’t been a lot of improvement.
The ports are once again excellent fitting – very snug and secure for jacks. All connections feel very solid. Supposedly for the X5ii, these ports now have a hard plastic sheath – rather than full metal. I’m not sure if this was for implemented for durability, better connection, or something else – but I’m pleased to report that they are firm fitting.
There are two ports in the top of the unit – the headphone out, and a dedicated 3.5mm line out which also doubles as a digital plug (works with a 3.5mm to coax adapter – which Fiio supply). The second port switches between line-out and coax-out by software switching (in the System Setting Menu). And this is where I come to my first major critique of the X5ii. Normally (on all Fiio’s other DAPs), the headphone out is on the left, and the line-out/coax out is on the right. For the X5ii (and I have no idea why they changed this), it has been swapped. I have already had a couple of mishaps with this, and all I can say is thank goodness I was using HD600’s both times. If I’d had sensitive IEMs suddenly plugged into the line-out, and full fixed volume blasting in my ears, I would not have been happy. This is one change which will take a while for me to get used to – and I guess the obvious question is – why? If it’s going to be a wholesale change across the line-out, I’d get used to it quickly – but the X3ii is directly the opposite. I’m afraid this is one design change that I simply don’t agree with. Not clever.
On the bottom of the unit are dual micro SD ports – which currently handle up to 128Gb cards – so total known capacity at time of writing is 256+ Gb. But Fiio is confident that there should be no issues handling larger capacity cards as they are released, so expansion options look good for the future. The slots this time have no covers – and I actually think (after some of the comments about the original X5) that many will welcome this change. Nestled between the two slots is a standard USB micro socket for data transfer and charging.
On the left hand side panel of the unit is the on-off switch, and below that the volume buttons. There is decent separation between the power and volume buttons, and the volume buttons protrude very slightly more from the unit – so they are easy to identify. Tactile response is pretty good. I understand Fiio is going to change an internal piece of silicone (to improve tactile response further). The power LED light is now in the center of the power button, and this is surprisingly effective. It’s blue when active, red when charging, green when fully charged. I like this more than the pinhole LED in X3ii and X1. There is a hole in the protective case to allow the light to be seen.
One thing I’ve noticed is missing from the X5ii is no hard-reset button/hole. Joe informs me that you can activate a hard reset by holding in the power button for 15 seconds though.
The screen is a 2.4 inch HD colour IPS screen with a resolution of 400×360 pixels. It’s hard to make a direct comparison with the original X5 (because I’m running a different community supplied theme), but just looking at album covers, with both units on full brightness, and I would say they are comparable. Both are far more detailed and vibrant than either the X3ii or X1. Viewing angles are very good, detail is sharp, and I personally have no problems reading the screen, even in direct sunlight.
So overall – the build and physical design for me is a pretty solid 7/10. I think the added tactility of the buttons, and the improvement of the wheel (before final release) will bring this score up to almost perfect. And again, the only design change I really question is the swapping of the output port locations.
UI (USER INTERFACE) / USABILITY
Please note that this is with the released firmware 0.05 beta.
Let me preface by saying that if you’re familiar with the user experience of the original X5, X1 or new X3ii, this is going to be very familiar ground for you.
On starting the X5ii, you are greeted with an animated “welcome” screen – before moving to the menu. The menu can be navigated using either the scroll wheel or buttons. At the top of the menu is a status bar which shows (left to right) : volume, gain, current screen (or EQ status if in now playing screen) , micro SD card status, sleep timer – if set, play/pause status, and battery level indicator.
The main menu choices include: now playing, category (or library access via tags), folder browsing mode, play settings, and general settings.
The general settings screen is very straight forward, and includes:
- Update media library manually
- Lockscreen settings
- Screen timeout and brightness
- Power off and sleep settings (including a sleep timer)
- Software switch for line-out vs digital out via coax
- Switch for displaying tile or file name (now playing screen only)
- USB mode switch (USB or DAC mode)
- In-line microphone control switch (on or off)
- Theme controls (5 options)
- Info about the X5ii and options to format the SD card, and totally factory reset your X5ii
The lockscreen switch includes 3 options which should suit most users. I’ve been using lockscreen 3, and have had no issues with random presses while it’s been in my pocket (YMMV).
Theming has a choice of 5 preset themes. I have to admit, I’m not overly keen on any of them (sorry Fiio) – but the ability to mod the firmware and change the graphical appearance, and store 5 different options is going to be very welcome (considering some of the excellent mods so far on the original X5). At the moment I’m using the 2nd theme. Just a note to Fiio here – considering the high quality of the original X5 mods, a competition for modders would be an excellent idea, especially if the top 5 themes could be included in a later firmware option !
Updating the media library can be set to automatic or manual (I always leave mine on manual – as most of the time now I simply use folder browsing). To give you an idea of the time to update an entire library – I currently have 5652 tracks (in FLAC and DSD) on it at the moment, across two cards, and it took 2 minutes and 20 seconds to scan the entire library, but then a further 2 minutes 20 seconds to write the index to memory/card. I trialled this twice and it was pretty consistent both times. Once again though – using manual updating means you update when you have the time. The rest of the time there is no scanning and the X5ii is always instantly ready to use.
I also threw some additional files on to check if the 5800 file limit is still there, and thankfully this limit is gone.
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