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Creative MuVo TX FM (256MB, White)

The Creative MuVo was the first device we'd seen to combine a USB memory key with an MP3 player, a design that has since been emulated by the Gateway DMP-200, the Rio Fuse, and Creative's own MuVo NX. The company has made several improvements to its latest MuVo, the TX FM. The player adds an FM tuner, comes in a choice of two capacities (128MB or 256MB), and offers a faster file-transfer speed (USB 2.0), though it still has the tiniest of LCD screens. Combine these features with great sound, music store compatibility, and a $150 price tag (for the 256MB version), and you have a winning flash player that's hard not to like.

The MuVo TX FM, which measures 1.4 by 2.9 by 0.6 inches and weighs just 1.5 ounces, resembles a Zippo lighter with an LCD screen and buttons. The player offers a similar control layout to that of the MuVo NX, but the TX FM has slightly different coloring: white and black as opposed to grey and black. It lacks the snazzy red spare battery module that was included with the NX, and the USB extender cable, a handy extra for those with overcrowded or inconveniently located USB ports, is also notably absent. On the upside, Creative now provides a cleverly designed holster that can clip to your belt or to the included armband--an ideal accessory for working out, jogging, or even just walking around. (There's also an eye hook if you prefer to use a lanyard.)

Despite the player's diminutive size, its 96x32-pixel backlit LCD is crisp and easy to read. It shows basic ID3-tag info, elapsed time, playback settings (such as shuffle and repeat), and a battery gauge. Like the NX, the TX FM is a snap to operate, thanks to its minimalist controls: volume buttons, a play/pause/power button, and a track-skip/menu-navigation jog dial.

The TX FM offers more features than its bare-bones and more expensive sibling, the TX. Both players can record low-quality mono voice memos and offer the standard MuVo five-band equalizer, which has Rock, Pop, Jazz, and Classical presets, plus a user-defined mode. However, with the TX FM, if you tire of digital tunes, you can turn on the FM radio. The player can automatically scan for available stations and create up to 32 presets from the ones it finds. There's also the option to record radio, which the MuVo does in 4-bit stereo; this isn't great for music but fine for, say, an NPR show you want to hear later. Unfortunately, there's no way to set up timed recordings, TiVo-style.

To copy files to the TX FM, you separate the "key" from its white battery pack and plug it into a USB port. You can either drag and drop files in Windows Explorer or use Creative's surprisingly good MediaSource application to create playlists, rip CDs, and copy files. As with other MuVos we've tested, the TX FM's 90dB signal-to-noise ratio resulted in clean, full audio playback. But you'll probably want to ditch Creative's flat-sounding, foam-padded earbuds.

The TX FM fared well in our file-transfer tests; thanks to a USB 2.0 connection, tunes traveled at a speedy 1.6MB per second. Battery drain tests also provided positive results, with the player lasting more than 18 hours.

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