Creative Labs MuVo

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The MuVo, which will be available in the UK at the end of August with 64MB of memory, is remarkably small: it’s about the size of a cigarette lighter at 73mm by 35mm by 16mm, and weighs 28g without batteries. There's no LCD, and there are only six buttons to control playback and volume. For some, the lack of viewable song-title and settings information will be a shortcoming. Others, however, will revel in the simplicity of a device that can be operated by feel alone.

Ease of use aside, the most innovative aspect of the MuVo's design is that it separates into two parts, one of which plugs directly into your computer's USB slot and doesn't require a cable. The MuVo is certainly pocket-friendly, but we still wish that Creative had included a belt clip or an armband, although both can be had as optional extras. A loop on the corner of the device hooks onto the included lanyard or a keychain, but we'd prefer a more secure method of attachment.

Since there's no LCD, there are no settings to mess around with: just press Play, and you're ready to go. A green light indicates that the device is playing, while red means that the MuVo is stopped or connected to your PC via USB. Anyone who likes to tweak EQ and other settings is out of luck: the EQ level is preset at Creative's Rock designation -- which delivers a slight bass boost -- all the time.

All Windows operating systems later than Windows 98 SE recognise the MuVo's detachable flash-memory portion as a removable drive, which enables you to copy and paste or drag and drop MP3s onto the device. Windows 98 and 98 SE users will need to install a driver, but Mac users with OS 9 or OS X won't have to do so, despite the absence of a Mac-compatibility logo on the box. We love the fact that most newer computers need neither drivers nor cables to connect to the MuVo. This makes it perfect for ferrying data between computers in the same way that people utilise keychain flash storage devices. Those who prefer to use full-featured jukebox software to manage their music collections can opt for the included Creative PlayCenter software to transfer songs onto the MuVo.

The MuVo sounds great playing both MP3 and WMA files, with a loud top volume and a very high 93dB signal-to-noise ratio for clean sound. One AAA battery powers the unit for almost 12 hours. The included headphones sound average and have a long enough cord to reach the pocket of a tall individual.

Normally, we'd never recommend an MP3 player with no expandable memory, no belt clip, no display and no settings whatsoever. However, these omissions are partially responsible for the MuVo's extraordinary ease of use, which is one of its main strengths. If you're one of those people who can't stand cumbersome and complicated technology, or you need an MP3 player that doubles as a keychain-based data-transport device, this is the product for you.