Who would have said that Apple would become uncontested
king of music player market. Just 20 years ago Sony's Walkman and later Discman
dominated the music player market. In very late 2009, when tapes are long
gone and MP3s are far more popular than CDs, Microsoft has decided to try and beat Apple’s iPod. This is not Microsoft’s first attempt. Zune
got its second iteration of this product, and if we might notice, this time around
Microsoft did a much better job.
We would be surprised if you hadn’t heard of Zune or Zune HD. Long story short, Zune HD is a device that tries to goes after the iPod, and in HD iteration it doesn’t have a wheal, but can play music and fancy movies and Videos, and it does a very good job. When you first take Zune HD in your hand, you can notice the build quality and a nice metal body that fits the device perfectly. I heard many times that device is “smaller than expected” and this is definitely the feeling you get when you first tried it
There are only three buttons and for the rest you will have to rely on the touch sensitive screen. When you turn it on, you'll notice that Zune HD has an incredibly crisp screen. It has the best screen compared to any similar device I have seen in my life and this is no exaggeration. The second thing you notice when you turn it on is that the device reacts very fast to commands and that it works very fast in general.
You don’t get a CD or an USB drive with a driver, you have to go online and download the software and eventually upgrade it. We had some issues upgrading our software mostly due to the fact that we did all the testing in Europe and this product doesn’t ship in Europe, at least not yet. Once you install all that has to be installed you can start the video, audio and picture synchronization. This procedure looks very much like the one you do with an iPod’s iTunes.
Microsoft copied this things right. You load your music, videos and pictures to the Zune HD and the fun can start. Once you boot you go right into the quite intuitive user interface. When you select, music, videos, podcast, settings, internet or one of other options you can notice insanely fast reaction. The device is not laggy and it is not annoying to use it. The multitouch screen works as it is supposed to and offers some space for mistakes. If you can aim well, you will select the desired menu. If we start describing Zune HD from the button, we can tell you that Microsoft has its own proprietary Zune HD connector and it ships the device with a single USB cable. If you want a charger you have to buy one, but you can charge your Zune HD with an USB cable.
Below the screen at the central point there is a multi-function button and this home button can always get you back to the home screen. The left hand side has multi function button that can adjust the loudness and when the device is locked, it will offer you on-screen commands where you can skip song, go back or adjust the volume. There is always an soft exit button on the left hand corner and it speaks for itself. You lock the screen by pressing the power button located on top of the player and of course, you can turn the device on using the same button.
Zune HD is unique and it's a bit better than the iPod because a few things. First and foremost it can play HD 720P video for at least 5+ hours. When you match this with the OLED screen that looks beautiful you get a winning combination. Nvidia’s Tegra chip is responsible for frame-drop-free playback of HD video and SD videos also look great.
The bad thing about this player and HD playback is that if you want to play HD on your HD capable screen you need to buy an HD cradle that will give you HDMI connectivity. This is not something that you want to have in your pocket, but it will fit any lady’s bag or a backpack. The lack of HDMI is probably the most series flaw of this device. It would probably make it thicker, but it would make it great for taking a movie to your buddy or girlfriend’s home and playing it on an HD capable screen without much hassle.
The Zune HD is powered by Tegra, so is very fast and responsiveness can only take your breath away. The latest generation of Apple's iPod Touch, its direct competitor, and iPhone 3GS are definitely comparable in terms of reaction time, but you cannot play HD 720p on them. The other nice feature is internet browser that can be used if you have a wireless hotspot in your range. The browser can open complex sites including Fudzilla and it renders images and text very fast. When you zoom the device can render fonts in a fraction of a second, which makes the overall browsing experience very positive.
The virtual keyboard that is available with the browser is fast and easy to use. Naturally Zune HD has an accelerometer that can rotate a browser content or a picture in landscape format. It is much easier to type in landscape as the key are bigger. You get a zoom in and zoom out function for photos, and of course do can set the slideshow to show how cool your vacation in some exotic paradise truly was.