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An array of five buttons surround the touch strip, which works quite effectively. Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the screen. Whereas colour has made it to the Zen Micro Photo, it hasn’t yet got as far as the Sleek, which is in sharp contrast to the now colour-only iPod. So no photo slideshows and no album art work on this player then - hardcore music all the way.
While iPods are from the Mac world of the single mouse button, this Creative is a creature from the Windows world. As such, is has a context menu button. This brings up options that depend on what you’re doing at the time, which, I guess, is why it’s called a context menu.
In use, the Sleek, is much like an iPod, only with an up/down strip instead of a wheel, used for menus or for volume while a track is playing. A selection is made by tapping the centre with a Play/Pause button above, a track skip left/right on either side, a back button to go up a menu and the aforementioned context menu button. When you move up and down the screen’s blue backlight comes on and the buttons also light up, aka the third generation iPod.
The power switch is on top, along with a hold button and the microphone. Syncing is done via USB 2.0 via a cable that, like the iPod, is proprietary at the player end. However, unlike the iPod it doesn’t charge over USB; you need to plug in the power plug into the base of cable plug. This is a rather inelegant solution and means more bulk when travelling. Creative claims a battery life of 18 hours, which is great, and a charge time of only two hours.
The downfall of many a potentially decent player, such as the Toshiba Gigabeat, is awful software and Creative does it’s best to keep up this fine tradition with its usual bloated array of software. The best thing to do is avoid it and just use Windows Media Player 10. Ok, it’s not a patch on iTunes but at least you can do everything you need to do in one reasonable piece of software, without having to go darting about between several rubbish ones. However, if you want to sync Outlook with the player you’ll need to touch Creative’s Sync Manager application.