The square Creative MuVo² holds 4GB of music (about 74 hours) on a one-inch internal hard drive, placing it between flash-based and hard drive-based players in terms of both size and capacity, as well as making it ideal for commuters, gym goers, and anyone else who wants a decent amount of tunes in a tiny package. We ran into a couple of design miscues but appreciate the unit's crystal-clear sound and appealing list price of $200, or $50 less than the , which uses the same drive.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more. Creative's MuVo² is a little square--literally. At 2.6 inches in length and width and 0.8 inch in depth, it weighs just 3.2 ounces, including the amazingly thin, replaceable lithium-ion battery. Its small, 132x32-pixel, 1.37-inch-diagonal, blue-backlit LCD offers ample information while a song is playing, such as the filename, the elapsed time, and the number of tracks in the current directory. However, navigating lists is a pain, as you can see only one song title at a time on the one-line display. If you're the type who often wants to hear a specific song, this is not the player for you, but if you tend to shuffle through your mixes, the small screen shouldn't present a problem. On the plus side, the display shows sliders and icons that aide in control and navigation.
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|The included case protects the player from impact and adds a wearability option.||Thanks to its replaceable battery, you don't have to worry about the MuVo² becoming a paperweight after a few years of use.|
The MuVo²'s four-directional toggle switch is the size of a shirt button, and its play/pause control is as big as a collar button. The cramped ergonomics take some getting used to, and we often found ourselves adjusting volume (by pushing up or down) when we meant to fast-forward or rewind (pressing left or right).
You'll find headphone, USB, and AC adapter/charger connections at the top of the unit; they're accessible even when the unit is in its case. A hinged latch on the back opens so that the rechargeable battery can be replaced; this enables you to swap in a fresh cell in a couple of years (most rechargeables lose resiliency eventually). A rotating spindle on the left side can hold a lanyard or a wrist strap--which would help prevent you from dropping the MuVo²--but neither is included. The USB cord is only 5 inches long, which is not very convenient for anyone with a PC that has only USB ports in the back. At least the player can connect via a USB hub and works with any standard USB miniplugs you might have from other devices.
The unit's blue chassis feels rugged enough, especially when wrapped inside the MuVo²'s handsome, padded carrying case, which sports a sturdy belt clip and a wide Velcro strap to store the coiled-up earbuds. But there's a drawback: The case blocks every control. It would have been nice if the case had cutouts or vinyl windows for the display and the navigation buttons. If you're sports-minded or like to carry a MP3 player on your belt, we recommend that you pick up the optional $69 corded FM remote, which provides 32 presets and voice recording. In addition to the standard play/repeat/shuffle modes, the MuVo² has Resume and Track-Once options. The former starts up playback from where you left off, while the latter stops playback after the track is done. There's no on-the-fly playlist feature, but the size of the display would have made that a difficult feature to use. You can also set the player to power down after a specified time.
The device's Volume function has 30 increments and is controlled via the navigation's up-down buttons, with a 0-to-30 corresponding bar on the display. The built-in equalizer offers five presets and a customizable mode, all easily accessible on the display. The MuVo² plays WMAs as well as MP3s, and it handles files at every bit rate we tried, including variable.
The MuVo² supports the song information in your music's ID3 tags but not the play order. So if your want your albums to play in the proper order, you'll need to specify a number at the start of each filename (as with many other players) or create a playlist for each album using the included Creative MediaSource Organizer software, which also rips CDs to MP3. Additionally, if you don't put songs in folders or playlists, they'll be hard to find except as part of the play-all-tracks mode. Once they're in there, you can upload them to other computers. The unit delivered plenty of realistic audio in our tests. How realistic? We were walking on a busy city sidewalk when we thought we heard applause coming from inside a building, but it turned out to be a live track playing on the MuVo². The effect was no doubt aided by the unit's 98dB noise ratio, 15mW-per-channel power rating, and harmonic distortion rate of less than .05 percent. Our Shure E3c test 'phones improved the sound considerably over the bundled earbuds and did not pick up any extra hiss from the player.
Files transferred to the player over USB 2.0 at an unimpressive speed of 2.3MB per second. Files also copied over perfectly from a Mac G4 running Jaguar 10.2, but no Mac software is included. The manual says you can plug the unit into a USB port and start cloning files. But on each machine we connected to, the MuVo² froze unless we used the AC adapter/charger. Also, files developed skips when we dragged a bunch of individual folders onto the player simultaneously. Neither performance problem is serious; plugging in the power cord and dragging folders as a group solve both.
The battery charges in less than 3 hours if depleted. Our battery test lasted 12 hours--shy of Creative's claimed life of 14 hours.
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