Sleek Enhanced Mini-Reviewby: Tim Carroll
March 28, 2007
When Pocket Tunes 4 arrived on the scene back in December ’06, one of the most welcome additions was the new “Sleek” UI. In our review, I called it “a welcome and much-needed improvement over the cluttered and, well, ugly High Fidelity interface of pTunes 3.” Based on customer feedback, Normsoft and Gx5 have further refined Sleek in the months since, claiming to “improve the listening experience”.
My, What a Big Playlist You Have…
The original Sleek UI succeeded largely because it managed to fit a lot of controls and info onto the screen without making things feel cluttered. That’s no small accomplishment, considering the Treo’s limited screen real-estate. But there was a price for doing so: a limited playlist view and an eye-strainingly small album thumbnail. Sleek Enhanced seeks to rectify this by giving us three separate “views”, which are toggled by two small touchscreen buttons above the playback controls. For lack of official titles, I’ve named them Navigation, Playlist, and Album Art. Imaginative, eh?
Navigation is the default view, and where most of the changes have occurred. The first thing you’ll notice is the new “Jump Bar”, which allows you to skip around your audio in precise increments. It’s especially handy for audio books and longer music tracks, where the position slider can be somewhat hit-and-miss. But although it’s useful (and big enough to be thumb-friendly), it looks cluttered and detracts from Sleek’s overall visual appeal. Whether you appreciate its addition or not will depend on how often you use it.
The track information area has been slightly rejigged: album art is now much larger, the artist name area has been shrunk slightly, and file type & bitrate info make a comeback after a brief sabbatical.
Playlist view is fairly self-explanatory. In our original review, I noted:
“It's unfortunate that you can't tap or drag the playlist scrollbar; it can be difficult to accurately hit the up/down buttons without the aid of the stylus. It also would have been nice for those of us with 320x320 devices to have the option to expand the playlist view to fill the screen.”
I’m happy to say that these niggles have been… erm, de-niggled. The up/down buttons are bigger and much more thumb-friendly, and the playlist now fits 11 songs comfortably. In their place, however, I have a new qualm: you no longer have at-a-glance access to your playlist. It’s either a page full of playlist or no playlist at all.
Album Art view basically takes the track information area from Navigation and blows it up to fill the screen, sans the bitrate and file type. On this view, the album art will look more like the CD case you have on your shelf, and less like a nondescript puddle of pixel vomit.
Universal to all three views are the new, larger Volume, Shuffle and Repeat buttons. In order to make room for the View buttons, the volume slider graphic has been dropped and now just displays a percentage.
I Take It All Back
I’m torn. The Sleek (Enhanced) UI takes a frustrating two steps forward and one step back. On the one hand, complaints that the original Sleek had been too simplified have been knocked for six; there’s now even more information at your thumbtips. But on the other, these enhancements have actually detracted from Sleek’s original appeal: lack of clutter. (I suppose you’d call that “spartan”.) Whether that matters to you will come down to personal taste, but this reviewer will be sticking with the original.
Sleek (Enhanced) is available as a free download from Normsoft’s website. It comes in Blue, Green and Crimson varieties. Pocket Tunes 4 is available from the PIC Software Store in Deluxe and Basic versions for $37.95 and $19.95, respectively. There is a free trial available.