Sound as a pound
The MuVo2 provides a basic equaliser with four pre-defined settings and a simple customer four-band slider for you to adjust to suit your own taste. I tested the player with the EQ set to Normal - i.e. flat - and the volume set to fractionally over 50 per cent (13 out of 25). With both my reference iPod earphones and Creative's own, the MuVo² produce a clear, vibrant sound. It's slightly quieter than the original iPod, but nudge up the volume a point or two and you wouldn't know the difference.
I should stress that I didn't listen to either device from an audiophile's perspective, more as a consumer of a large quantity of music of a wide variety of styles who likes a good sound but doesn't want to get too anal about it. I find that 128Kbps MP3s are 'good enough for rock'n'roll', as they say. The iPod's AAC format is better, but not alas compatible with the MuVo, so I used the 'standard'.
Playing the same tracks, the MuVo was arguably better than the iPod, primarily because of the sound produced by Creative's much-improved earphones. They yield a more resonant bass and slightly crisper treble than Apple's offering, with the mid-range much the same. There's always a level of subjectivity in sound tests, but I'd say the Creative 'phones gave a livelier sound on both players. Not that the iPod's 'phones are by any means bad, they just offer a little less clarity at the lower frequencies.
The MuVo lacks a record facility, but so what? I've never met anyone who owned a digital music player that could record voice memos who actually used the facility. I'm sure there are some, and there are many other players out there that would meet their needs, but for most buyers I suspect it's really not a deal breaker.
Nor is no support for Creative's EAX audio processing technology, which - let's face it - is fun to play with but of relatively little value to most music buffs.
If the MuVo has one flaw it's the display, a tiny, two-line affair that provides a track elapsed time, the name of the song at a squint-inducing point size and player status information, such as the EQ pre-set you may have selected and the repeat mode. Here the Creative machine does fall down in comparison with the iPod Mini, whose LCD is barely smaller than the standard iPod's.
The MuVo ships with an appropriately size holster with belt-clip, but once in place, the player's controls and screen are hidden from view, and Creative's bundled earphones do not come with a remote control.
It's hard not to like the MuVo2. It's compact, light and its 4GB storage capacity will suit most listeners, who, according to researchers, find a 1000-song capacity more than sufficient. It may seem expensive, but its price per byte score is way ahead of cheaper, solid-state players like Creative's own MuVo NX.
Despite the small display, the MuVo2 looks good and sounds even better. And it's battery life is simply astounding.
I have to admit that I prefer the look and feel of the iPod Mini. It's sound quality may not quite match the the MuVo2's - at least on the basis of the original version of the Apple player - but its styling, the ease of use of its controls and that screen are far superior to the Creative machine. Where the iPod loses big time is on battery life - it's half that of its rival's 15 hours - and more playback time.
I'd like to see better cross-platform support coming out of Creative. While the MuVo2 will mount as a removable hard drive, it took a long time to do so on my PowerBook G4, and unmounting was a lengthy, uncertain process. I generally have no problem mounting Windows-formatted solid-state drives and players, so I doubt it's that. I haven't tried an iPod with a Windows machine, but I gather it works reasonably well, and I've never had a problem running iTunes on a Windows XP PC.
Windows users should have no trouble with the the MuVo2, however. But while Apple is poaching on Creative's territory, it's a shame Creative isn't raiding its rival's homeland.
Nor is is beating it on price. In the US, Apple's $249 iPod Mini is $49 more expensive than the Muvo2, but over here both will set you back £199 including VAT. If you want stylish looks and good cross-platform support, you'll have to go for the Apple. But if sound quality and - here's the killer - battery life are more important, the MuVo² can't be beaten. ®
|Pros||— Compact size, solid build quality
— Superb sound quality
— Excellent battery life
|Cons||— Tiny Display
— Tricky control mechanism
— Weak cross-platform support
|Price||UK: £199 including VAT - US: $200|
|More info||The Creative Nomad web site|
Visit The Reg's Review Channel for more hardware coverage.