So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Creative MuVo T200
- Small; has an LCD screen, microphone and FM tuner; USB storage device
- Headphones produce muffled sound, radio presets aren't intuitive
It's as small as a lighter, yet it can tune into FM radio stations and record through its microphone as well as play MP3s. The only drawback is its supplied set of headphones, which do a bad job of reproducing high and low frequencies.
Price$ 149.95 (AUD)
Creative's latest MuVo, the T200, packs 4GB of flash memory into a USB stick-sized MP3 player that's perfect for listening while commuting. It has basic controls, a tiny screen and can also tune into FM radio as well as record sounds through its built in microphone. It'll also double as a USB storage device for documents and any other types of files.
If size matters to you, then the MuVo will definitely be appealing. It's only as big as a lighter, yet it has what is effectively a two-line, colour LCD screen so that you can see what's playing, and change settings, too. It also displays the time and date. Some basic controls are located towards the top of the player for skipping tracks, playing and manipulating the volume, and there's a shortcut button that can be set to display the time or skip to one of the other of the player's functions – FM radio or microphone recording. The MuVo doesn't have a changeable battery; the battery is located within the player and recharges whenever you plug it into your computer's USB port. It lasted almost seven hours in our tests. What the MuVo lacks is a belt-clip, but it does have holes for a lanyard, so you can hang it around your neck.
The retail package doesn't include a software CD – its interface application, which can be used for ripping and organising music, can be installed off the player itself when you plug it into your computer – but the MuVo can be packed with tracks simply by dragging and dropping files from Windows Explorer. With 4GB of space, the MuVo will hold about 46 hours worth of MP3s encoded at 192Kbps, which is plenty enough to keep you from having to freshen the playlist too often. However, the songs on the MuVo can't be navigated easily, unless they are in folders. If you dump everything into the 'music' folder of the device, then you are at the mercy of the track names as far as the playing order is concerned. If you create folders within the MuVo's 'music' folder, then these can essentially be used as playlists. You can also change playing modes; random, repeat and repeat all are present.
Playing a set-list consisting of rap, pop, opera, metal and electronica, is when it became obvious that the player lacked dynamic range. The music sounded muffled and very biased towards mid-range tones. Luckily, we found the culprit to be the supplied headphones. Once we plugged in a decent set (we used Sennheiser MX90 headphones), our tunes gained more bass and treble and sounded as good as we expected them to. If you don't want to buy another set of headphones, you can try adjusting the equaliser settings, but you'll have to try hard.
Microphone recordings worked surprisingly well during our tests. Deep harmonies, beat-boxing and faux falsetto vocals were captured clearly during a riveting after-hours sing-a-long in our Test Centre, so you can have a lot of fun with this microphone if you want to, or you can use it for more serious work, such as recording an interview. It captures audio loudly enough from a few metres away, but might not be ideal for a lecture hall. Its FM receiver worked well enough, too, but setting presets isn't intuitive at all. What's neat about the MuVo's firmware is that you can interrupt your MP3 listening to invoke the microphone or FM tuner, and when you return to MP3 mode it will continue exactly from where it left off.
Those of you who commute on public transport everyday will love this little player for its inconspicuous nature and extreme portability. Even if you're a jogger, you should check it out. However, to get the best out of it, you really do need to buy better headphones.
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