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Creative MuVo V200

More than a me-too iPod?

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Review Thanks to Apple, white is the new black, and Flash may well be the new hard disk, a least as far as MP3 players go. Hence, in part, the launch of a slick new Creative MuVo, the V200, not so long ago, clad in a shiny white iPod-style carapace. Of course, with the arrival of Apple's iPod Shuffle at round about the same time, the V200's been living under the Apple shadow ever since.

Creative MuVo V200Like past MuVos, the V200 comes in two parts: a USB Flash drive-sized unit which fits into an L-shaped AAA battery holder. Assembled, the V200 is smaller than its predecessors and looks more of a piece. It's a good size in your hand, and has a solid, well-built feel. On the side, there are the usual volume controls and jog-dial; on the front the power/play/pause key, microphone and small LCD.

Separated, the player half plugs straight into a free USB port, mounting as a generic storage device, ready for MP3 or WMA tracks to be dragged and dropped over - keep them in album folders to help the V200 organise your songs accordingly. You can drag over other files too, using the player as standard USB Flash drive - the player will ignore these. Windows users can run Creative's MediaSource app and copy songs over that way, which they'll need to do if they want to play DRM-encoded WMA files downloaded from Napster, Virgin Digital, et al.

Creative has been keener to tout its more compact MuVo N200, it seems, but the slightly larger model is the better product. I didn't like the N200's spongy jog-dial and recessed power key - the V200's are much better. The power key is raised above the body of the player, so it works every time you push it. The jog-dial has some resistance to it, so pushing it up and down is distinguishable from pushing it into the body of the player in order to make a menu selection.

Functionally, the V200 is almost the same as the N200 - all it lacks is the latter's line-in port for direct MP3 encoding. But, as I found, that's one of the weakest of the N200's features, offering poor recording quality. The V200 is probably better off without it. The V200 has an advantage over its stable-mate: its supports Audible audio books, according to Creative's web site.

There's the same FM tuner, able to record programmes as WAV files, and with the hissy reception you get will all personal analogue radios. The V200 will record voice memos in WAV format too. And there's the same five-band equaliser, with pre-sets and a custom EQ slider screen, to let you tweak the player's audio output.

The sound quality, as per Creative's other MP3 players, is excellent. The bundled earphones aren't exactly an expensive set, but they give good reproduction, even at low volume, adding a nice bassy warmth to the sound while retaining the crispness of the higher frequencies. I tried the player with a number of MP3 files, encoded at 160Kbps and 128Kbps, some with joint stereo, others with twin stereo tracks. I wasn't disappointed with the sound of any of them.

Verdict

An excellent addition to the MuVo range, and clearly superior to Creative's better-promoted MuVo Micro N200. Sure, it's a little bit bigger, but it feels and sounds the better product. You can't complain about the V200's sound quality, build quality or feature set. The price, which recent came down by £10-20 in the UK, isn't bad either. Yes, the Shuffle's cheaper, but it lacks a display. If you're an iTunes Music Store customer, you'll need the Shuffle, of course. But if you prefer more Windows-oriented services, the MuVo V200 is a worthy alternative. ®

 

Creative MuVo V200
 
Rating 90%
 
Pros Stylish (if iPod inspired) looks; great sound quality.
 
Cons Not as trendy as the iPod Shuffle
 
Price £70 (256MB), £90 (512MB), £130 (1GB)
 
More info The MuVo V200 site

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