Creative's new Zen Neeon, apart from being hell on a spellchecker, is the Singaporean giant's latest attempt to take the spotlight away from the iPod Mini. It's certainly a looker, with a reflective black piano finish and a distinct lack of buttons on the front making it look quite stylish in a minimalist way. The back of the unit is silver -- Creative is still deciding whether to bring in different coloured backs for the Neeon, which is available in nine other colours overseas. It's also quite petite, measuring in at 79.9 x 46.9 x 15.9mm and weighing 75g -- making it smaller and lighter than the Mini. The Neeon sports a 128 x 64mm LCD screen, and in a neat feature, has seven different backlight colours that users can choose from. The unit's controls are arrayed on either side, with a scroll wheel on the right being the main navigation tool. The Neeon has a 5GB storage capacity, which Creative claims can hold 2500 songs (in WMA format at 64kbps bitrate -- the Neeon can also play MP3 and WAV music files). Battery life is rated at 16 hours with the Neeon charging via a USB connection to your PC.

As is standard now with most Creative players, the Neeon features some handy extras, such as a built-in FM radio, built-in microphone for voice recording, direct line-in recording and storage device capabilities. The Neeon will also be the first Creative player to ship with Creative's Mediasource software, which allows users to access Creative's online Music Store. For extra customisation, Creative is also releasing changeable skins which can be stuck on the front of the Neeon -- there are 16 different skins available in four different ranges, which have such funky names as Eden, Safari and Kawaii. Extra Creative skins can be purchased separately in the form of a 2-piece pack for AU$15.95 and a 4-piece pack for AU$19.95.

It's hard to pick negatives until we have an extended play with the Neeon. As with any player this size, ease of use is the most important factor, and at this stage we'll have to wait and see whether the Neeon's side scroll wheel is an effective method of navigating through a large song library.

Creative's scored some design hits with its MP3 products recently, and the Neeon is no exception. At AU$299, it's placed itself to be more than competitive against the iPod Mini.