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Review: Creative TravelDock Zen Micro

Posted by iNext - 2006-02-22

For iPod owners, there is an abundance of accessories for Apple's incredibly popular little music box. But if you own a Creative Zen Micro or any other portable-media player not made by Apple, you have fewer choices for add-ons and accessories.

Mostly, you must rely on iPod accessories, just like everyone else who uses an alternative player. But there are some notable exceptions, including Creative's TravelDock Zen Micro speaker system.

Look and Feel

Creative's TravelDock is designed specifically to be used with the Zen Micro, but it can accept inputs from just about any media player that uses standard audio cables. About the same dimensions as a supersized Sony PlayStation Portable, the iPod-esque white speaker system will fit unobtrusively on any desk.

The cover folds over the speakers to act conveniently as a kick stand. You can close the cover with the Zen Micro in the system, transforming the TravelDock into a convenient travel case. To connect your Zen Micro, just hook the player to the flip-out docking port and slide it in the cavity that sits between the left and right speakers -- a perfect fit.

Once the player is docked, though, the power switch is blocked. The player does turn on when you press the speaker system's power button, but turning off the speakers will not power down the Zen Micro. You will have to undock the player to shut down, or simply pause it and have the auto-off feature do its job.

Features

The TravelDock doubles as a docking base, charging and syncing your Zen Micro with your computer. The speaker system also comes with an FM antenna that can improve the reception on the Zen Micro's integrated FM tuner.

Most portable speakers lack bass, and the TravelDock is no exception to this general rule. Recognizing this problem, Creative has added an output port for connecting a powered subwoofer that will put more oomph in your tunes.

The TravelDock also boasts a "Wide Stereo Effect" feature designed to provide a more immersive audio experience. And the "Soft Volume" button allows you to reduce the volume instantly for answering phone calls or listening to your girlfriend calling to you from another room.

The included infrared remote control lets you control volume, turn the system on or off, and skip through tunes.

Performance

Putting out 4 watts per channel, the TravelDock Zen Micro certainly can fill a small den or bedroom with sound. The overall sound quality is very good, handling both high and midlevel sounds well.

But, as expected, the little speakers just cannot produce the lows that will rock a house party, so your hip-hop collection will sound more like Barry Manilow than 50 Cent. Easy-listening fans will be satisfied with the sound, but adding a subwoofer definitely is a must for higher-energy music that needs an extra kick.

Running on just four AA batteries, we achieved an impressive 26 straight hours of playback -- enough juice for the longest beach party of your life.

The Verdict

The TravelDock Creative Zen has a lot to offer with versatile features, a compact form factor, and great audio performance. Just don't expect thumping bass right out of the box.

Compatible with any digital-audio player -- although designed specifically to fit the Zen Micro -- Creative's new speaker system is a solid accessory for any and all iPod-alternative players.

Creative TravelDock Zen Micro

Specs: USB port; headphone and subwoofer out connector; line-in port; FM antenna; Wide Stereo Effect switch; Soft Volume button; four AA batteries; infrared remote control.

Pros: Wide Stereo Effect feature; great sounds, superb battery life; subwoofer port.

Cons: Lacks bass; power switch does not turn off player.

Verdict: The only travel speaker tailored to the Zen Micro offers versatility and great audio, but limited bass.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Price: $129.99

www.creative.com



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