Fiio X5 Review
When Apple killed the iPod, one of my fears was real. The world where you could hold all the music ever, in a box the size of a chocolate, in your pocket, was suddenly eliminated by Apple's fetish for making everything streaming and inside their controlled, walled garden.
The Fiio X5 is the nearest thing to the iPod replacement there is. It's compact yet powerful with faithful audio reproduction, a good Digital Output as DAC, and hefty battery life, with none of the major drawbacks of Apple. Goodbye forever to clunky bloatware and torturous endless updates, limited cable options, nonsensical metadata (where, for example, including Album Artist and Song Artist created another identical Artist folder). Itunes is history. All you need is a file navigation system, and Windows Explorer is more than up to the job.
For the uninitated, there are a number of major – glaring – differences.The battery life is longer. The visual display is nowhere near as smooth, and the default -and unchangeable – colours of orange-on-black are difficult to see in high brightness environments such as a rare sunny day. Display and controls are analog, and thus you have to rethink (it's as if someone moved the steering wheel or gearstick). All the major iPod functions are there but you have to rethink how you engage the controls. After a few days, these do become second nature. But there will be confusion.
Storage takes a big leap up from the iPod 160GB. There's not a 12GB Operating System, either. First, there's 2 x microSD card mounts with a max supported file size of 128GB. You can mount larger microSD cards, but your mileage may vary and they may not work. Certainly here, they're fine, with the added – and minor – inconvenience of having to remember that you have two storage points, and you have to remember which of the two the chosen song is on. (Me, I just load up A-M on drive #1 and N-Z on drive #2). In effect I have gone from 148GB on the iPod to 256GB on the Fiio. A luxury.
Navigating files and choosing songs can first seem like a pain. Once you grasp that it is no limit : you simply browse files by folder (you can use artist, but then “ACDC”, “AC DC”, “AC-DC”, “AC/DC” and “AC_DC” become a pain quickly). It's all straightforward.
MicroSD cards a minor pain – to be compatable with the X5 and the 128GB SD card size they have to be formatted to FAT32. Windows 8+ above doesn't do this 'out of the box' so you have to find a suitable online application to do so. Once sorted, there is the formatting, and loading of your library onto the microSD cards.
Mass loading of the SD cards is a time consuming effort. Whilst you merely drag and drop in Explorer to load up the card, the only USB option is USB 2.0, and thus, it took me four days of constant copying to fill the newly-formatted microSD's. Baffling there is no USB3.0 option (which is much faster and more efficient).
Finally, the X5 also comes with a rubberised protective case as standard, alongside plenty of dongles and wire and cables. No need for expensive addons, extra cases, or anything like that, just the X5 as is, alongside 2 x microSD cards.
Sonically, reproduction seems warm. Metal and Rock is slightly tinny but thats probably more of a reflection of modern headphones. Electronic music is warm, bassy and expansive.
Overall, since moving to this when my ancient iPod 160GB died a few weeks ago, I have no regrets about my decision – excepting the boring and timeconsuming setp process which you will need to also do for any new bit of kit. The iPod is dead, Long Live the Fiio X5.