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Jul 10, 2008
Review: Microsoft's Zune MP3 Player
About a month ago, I got a new 8 GB Zune 2. They were recently launched in Canada and I decided it was a good time to try out a new mp3 player. Here's my review on this iPod killer:
Like the competition, the Zune 2 is very well designed and constructed. Though it appears bulky, the Zune is actually pretty lightweight at 47g or 1.7oz. The bottom half is made of brushed aluminium which makes it resistant to scratches and the top half is made up of a porous plastic, which doesn’t leave many fingerprints.
The screen's glass construction gives it strength of 5.5 on the Mohs scale, which is very impressive if you know that iPod’s screen is only 1 on the same scale.
As far as the battery goes, under ideal conditions (without WiFi, brightness minimum standby mode after 1 second, etc.) it allows for 24 hours of music or 4 hours of video.
Zune 2’s sound quality has greatly improved since the first generation. Though Microsoft left out the equalizer this time around and it seems the community wasn’t too impressed. Hopefully there will be an update for the Zune 2 in the future with the equalizer program attached to it.
The Zune 2 allows you to play mp3, mp4, wav, and wma format, but iTunes users will be disappointed to know that they can’t play their purchased iTunes songs on the player.
A great feature about the Zune 2 is its ability to play music without pausing between tracks. Great for techno fans whose music sounds like one endless song anyway.
Given that I only have the 8GB version of Zune, I didn't really enjoy playing videos on its small screen 4.5cm, but visual the video clips that I did test out on the Zune 2 looked pretty good on full colour screen. The videos appear in widescreen format.
Podcasting is very convenient on the Zune 2 as it saves you having to constantly check if a new episode is available. Quite simply save the Podcast link in the Zune software and it takes care of downloading the latest episodes for you.
The Zune can store 25,000 images regardless of the model chosen and can be shared by friends who have a Zune via WiFi. The images, like the videos appear automatically in landscape format.
On the software side, I was quite impressed with the Zune software manager. Based on a tab design, you can click and drag items from other tab to another. Setup photo albums, play lists, podcast downloads, etc.
The use of WiFi for synchronization or exchange between friends for songs or photos is probably one of the neatest features on the Zune. It connects to the local WiFi network and supports all protocols wireless security.
Regarding the exchange of files and songs, just look for friends in the vicinities with the Social section on Zune. Then you can select a friend and send photos without restrictions or songs with restrictions. As far as restrictions, each song sent can only be played 3 times by friends. It does not matter if the original file is protected or not by a system of protection of digital rights.
The Zune Marketplace is not yet available for Canadian users; I can only hope that it will be as user-friendly as the competition. This will be a place where you can buy music, video and television episodes. If you buy a TV Show, you'll be notified when a new episode is available and it will download and synchronize automatically with your Zune, just like podcasts.
The touch pad control is much like the iPod’s as it allows you roll your finger across the pad to move the cursor on the screen around. I personally never liked touch sensitive controls, so I turned it off and opt for the click pad controls instead.
The menu is setup into categories like music, podcasts, albums, etc. and when you click on them, they open into your files lists. They’re extremely easy to navigate.
Despite a rocky start out on the market, I think the Zune has potential to be a great mp3 player. With the Marketplace coming to Canada in the future and the possible of Microsoft integrating its XNA games software into the system, I think we Canadians have lots of cool addition features to look forward to too.