Zune HD was certainly one of the gadgets that build the most hype in the past few months. In fact, ever since the official announcement in May 26 confirming the Zune HD people have been guessing and debating various Zune HD related topics. And with promised feats like OLED display, high definition video playback and HD radio along with all the features you liked in the previous Zune versions, it seems like the iPod Touch has found its more than worthy opponent. But this is not the place for a conclusion as this article will only describe our first impressions of the device, with a more detailed review comming up in the following days.
The Zune is available in two versions: the 16GB and the 32GB model, priced on $219 and $289 respectively. Both models will be available in black or platinum but, just like previous Zune generations, you can customize its appearance from the Zune Originals storefront. Zune’s exterior is a rubberized plastic that give the user a nice feel of the player while the overall design is something you would expect from a 2009 launched player, without impressing you (but how can a portable player’s design really impress the audience?).
Microsoft has decided to really give the Zune HD all they’ve got, but they did it in a smart way. This is why even though Zune comes with a WiFi (which may not appeal to everyone), the future software updates may make this the best feature in this player. The player has a large potential for doing something really interesting in the future with the WiFi connectivity.
One thing you are most likely to enjoy is the User Interface: responsive and with just enough makeover to make it look great but keep it easy to browse through. To make full use of the WiFi we talked just earlier, the “send” option can be reached quickly from every point in the interface. But a good interface cannot be complete without a quality screen. Fortunately, the OLED screen provides brightness, smooth landscape/portrait transitions, picture auto cropping, and a really great image quality. The visual part of Zune HD is definitely a success.
The decision to make the player compatible only with Zune marketplace, thus eliminating third party options such as Napster or Rhapsody is a very bold one. The Zune Marketplace is indeed not that complicated and you can get your way around without too much trouble, but you most certainly will have some trouble converting your money into points and only then buying stuff (I really don’t get this move but maybe it’s only me).
The community rankings are a great way of managing your collection. Each song gets a rating based on other people’s rankings, its popularity and editor rankings. There are two easy ways of using this feature in an effective way: 1. you have a large collection of songs that you did not listen to. Make a playlist of the best pre-rated songs in your collection and start there. 2. You have large library but not enough space on your Zune HD, you can select to sync your library based on these rankings. It’s a quick and fun thing to do. This makes the ZM experience quite interesting, but not perfect.
The video and sound quality are really great (it is called Zune HD) and a lot better than you will get from any iPod.
As a conclusion, the Zune HD really seems to be the best portable media player you can get for your money at the moment as the iTunes supremacy over Zune Marketplace is basically the only advantage iPod has over Zune.
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