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. No larger than a credit card and as thick as about nine of them bundled together, the Creative MuVo Slim is definitely one of the skinniest audio players we've ever seen. It weighs just 1.6 ounces (with battery) and measures exactly 0.25 inch deep. In other words, you can slip it into a front shirt pocket and scarcely know it's there.
Creative supplies a stylish black-leather carrying case with a magnetic front flap. Thankfully, the case doesn't block access to the MuVo's jacks, controls, or microphone. Along the top edge, the MuVo sports a menu/transport jog dial, as well as volume and play/pause buttons. Around the side sits the player's USB 2.0 port and headphone jack. We find it ironic that Creative touted the built-in USB connectors on previous MuVo devices, while this one requires a cable--but that's an obvious concession to the slimness of this model.
A small but easy-to-read 132x32-pixel backlit screen displays elapsed play time, a battery gauge, play modes (such as Shuffle and Repeat), and a scrolling ticker with basic ID3 tag info. The resilient jog dial and the icon-based menu system make for easy selection of the MuVo's various features and settings.
Lightweight and palm-size, the MuVo would be a good choice for runners if its carrying case had a belt clip. At the very least, we'd like a wrist strap in case of accidental drops; although the MuVo has an eyehook, it doesn't come with a strap. But seeing as Creative most likely designed it with suit pockets in mind, these omissions are easy to overlook.
The player has no card slot for adding more storage, but it has a removable lithium-ion battery that charges exclusively via USB. Unless you regularly travel with a laptop, this could present a problem on long trips. You can drag and drop MP3, WMA, and data files right onto the Creative MuVo Slim's 256MB of flash memory, with no drivers required under Windows XP, although they will play back alphabetically. Unless you want to add numerical prefixes to your filenames, you'll need the included MediaSource application to create playlists. This simple yet versatile application also rips CDs to either MP3 or WMA files at variable bit rates and can transfer secure WMA files purchased from Napster and other online music stores to the Slim.
Like the Creative Nomad MuVo NX, the Slim has a built-in microphone for recording live audio: up to 16 hours' worth on the 256MB model. However, because they're only 4-bit mono recordings, don't bother smuggling the MuVo into a concert; it's more suitable for meetings. Another welcome holdover from the NX is the five-band graphical equalizer with Rock, Pop, Jazz, and Classical presets.
If you tire of your digital tunes, you can tune into FM radio. The MuVo can automatically scan available stations, then create up to 32 presets from its findings--perfect for setting up stations as you taxi toward your gate. There's also the option to record radio, again in 4-bit stereo; it's not great for music but fine for, say, an NPR show you want to hear later. As with almost all players that record FM, there's no way to set up timed recordings, à la TiVo.
Creative provides only a few pages of printed documentation with the MuVo. A more complete user guide is included on the CD as a PDF. Thanks to its 90dB signal-to-noise ratio, the Creative MuVo Slim produces crisp, clean audio that's sure to please even demanding audiophiles. We were surprised by the sound quality that came from the included earbuds; it was deep, rich, and loud enough to combat a fair amount of ambient noise. However, like most bundled 'buds, they had a tendency to fall out of our ears unless we really wedged them in, at which point they grew somewhat uncomfortable.
Radio reception proved outstanding, even indoors. The autoscan feature did a great job of locating and stations and designating presets, and we found that FM recordings sounded better than expected, given their low bit rate. Voice recordings were definitely on the flat and tinny side but adequate for their intended purpose.
In our file-transfer testing, the MuVo averaged a speedy 1.56MB per second. For some reason, DRM-protected WMA files were much slower to transfer than everyday MP3s.
Creative promises up to 17 hours of playback for MP3 files and 15 hours for WMAs. Our lab tests revealed this to be quite accurate; we coaxed 17.5 hours of MP3 playback from the unit's lithium-ion battery.
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