Creative Zen Sleek (20GB) review: Creative Zen Sleek (20GB)

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CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good
  • Overall: 6.7
  • Design: 6.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 7.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The Creative Zen Sleek is a solid, music-only WMA device with an FM tuner; voice and FM recording; and compatibility with Outlook contacts, calendars, and tasks. Large controls and a sleek body make this solid-sounding device a nice, affordable high-capacity option. It's compatible with Audible, MP3, WMA (DRM 10/subscription), and WAV files.

The Bad The Creative Zen Sleek lacks a color screen for viewing photos or video, and its overall design is uninspiring. In addition, the device has a messy proprietary dock-connector cabling system, and the touch pad may not be the right interface for some users.

The Bottom Line The Creative Zen Sleek is a decent WMA alternative for those looking for a music-only high-capacity MP3 player.

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Creative Zen Sleek: solid but uninspiring

Not to sound like a broken record, but there's a reason why Apple's iPod dominates the MP3 landscape like King Kong dominates Skull Island--its intuitive design and seamless relationship with iTunes make it accessible to the majority of consumers. Competitors such as the Creative Zen Sleek ($270) strive to make themselves different by adding appealing extras, which include an FM tuner, voice recording, and compatibility with subscription services. Despite the fact that the 20GB replacement for the aging Zen Touch has these features, along with crystal-clear sound quality, the overall package is uninspiring; however, it's the right fit for those seeking a high-capacity audio-only WMA player on the cheap. Those looking for a polished high-capacity player that plays video should check out Creative's Zen Vision:M. The Zen Sleek Photo is now a discontinued product. At 4 by 2.3 by 0.7 inches and 5.8 ounces, the metallic silver (with white accents) Creative Zen Sleek is iPod-size but much thicker. It's durable, solid, and sleek to the touch, and its 2-inch blue-backlit monochrome display is bright and large enough so that song and menu information is not squeezed--though the overall design does have a retro look about it. The vertical touch pad made famous on Creative's own Zen Touch and Zen Micro, as well as iRiver's H10, is slightly easier to handle than pads of past, and thankfully, the other controller buttons are tactile. These controller buttons fit the standard Zen mode: rewind and forward buttons up top flanking the play/pause buttons. Down below are the Back button and the contextual menu button, which is where you go to create on-the-fly playlists. The top of the Zen Sleek includes the microphone, the headphone jack, the hold switch, and the power button. Unlike the Zen Touch, the Sleek has no dedicated volume controls.

We must point out that the proprietary dock-connector system can be a royal pain, since the USB cable also integrates the power input. Although you can power the Creative Zen Sleek via USB, you'll need to carry two cables to get fast charging on the go. In some cases, you'll be charging up the Sleek with the attached USB cable inelegantly hanging off your player.

The Creative Zen Sleek ships with decent white earbuds, a power adapter, a USB cable-to-dock connection cable, a software CD, and a protective soft pouch. You can opt for the optional wired remote ($20) or the docking station ($40).

Functionally, the Creative Zen Sleek interface is standard enough to be intuitive the first try, though the player features a submenu button that gives users choices depending on what mode they're in. The Zen Sleek will play back MP3, WMA, WAV, and Audible files, and it's compatible with music store purchases and subscription files. You should update your Sleek to the latest firmware (2.01.03) if you haven't already.

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Where to Buy

Creative Zen Sleek (20GB)

Part Number: 70PF139000007
Pricing is currently unavailable.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Built-in Display LCD
  • Battery Player battery - rechargeable - lithium ion
  • Tuner Type FM
  • Supported Digital Audio Standards ADPCM
  • Diagonal Size 2"
  • Type 1 year warranty
  • Sound Output Mode stereo
  • Type digital player / radio