Is Apple unstoppable? If it is, the Zune HD has long appeared to be the best shot at unseating the MP3-player kingpin. Knowing that, when a Zune landed at PopSci HQ, we had to see if such a thing could actually be true.
For a week, I split my commute between a Zune HD and a brand new iPod touch (my fourth Apple player). These are the high- (and low-) lights of my week with the Zune HD.
Naturally as an iPod devotee, I felt predisposed to Hate (with a capital "h") the Zune, but I decided to give it a fighting chance nonetheless. I loaded 'er up with about 2 gigs of my most-played music, downloaded whatever apps the Zune Marketplace had to offer, subscribed to a podcast or two, and got myself a two-week ZunePass to make sure I was getting the full sha-bang.
After five days' worth of go-rounds on the NYC subway, I realized there are a few spots where the Zune HD does in fact out-class the "funnest iPod ever." But don't check me off as a convert: For every nugget I came to love about the Zune, there was another one tipping the scales back to the touch.
Five Things I Love:
2. Collection Loading: This has always been the great pain-in-the-ass of iTunes, and kudos to the Zune desktop software for getting it right. There is no need to manually add music to the library; any music, video, pics, whatahaveyou that you load into specified folders automatically shows up in your collection ("Documents/Music" for example). Huzzah!
3. Shortcuts: A left-to-right swipe from the home screen brings you to a secondary menu where you see a quick-glance of your collection activity. The best of this menu are the "pins," which are basically library bookmarks you create on the fly. I, for example, cannot get the song "Say Hey" by Michael Franti out of my head, so a press-and-hold on that track creates a shortcut. This screen also tracks what's currently playing, what you've listened to or watched most recently, and what's been newly added to the player.
4. HD Radio: I know, I know, they finally added an FM tuner to the new iPod nanos, but a) it's not high-def and b) there's no one-click way to add a song on the radio to your cart in the music store. 'nuf said.
Five Reasons to Stick to my iPod:
1. Games: Sure, they've only just gotten started (and the Zune HD will support 3D gaming), but the selection of downloads in the Marketplace is slim (and that's being generous). The glory of the iTunes App Store is choice (one word scramble game? Please, how about 40?) Zune users have nine apps total (seven games, a weather app, and a calculator).
2. Social Networking: It all comes back to apps. While the Zune HD has its own dedicated social component through the Marketplace where you and friends can share playlists and the like, it's severely limited. Facebook on the touch, runs circles around it, and doesn't require that everyone you connect with be running the same hardware to see each other.
3. No-Look Controls: The reason I didn't buy a first-gen iPod touch was simple: I didn't want a music player I had to look at to adjust the volume, controls the second- and third-gen models have added to the left-hand side. The Zune HD's left-hand key brings up an on-screen volume control, but doesn't directly adjust the output.
4. Daylight-Friendly: So neither OLED screen is perfect in bright sunlight, but at least I can still see the iPod walking down the street. The Zune forced me to pull over into the shade nearly every time I needed to do anything -- very irritating (see above re: volume controls).
5. Longer Battery Life: Microsoft and Apple both rate their player's battery life around the same 33-36 hours of music playback, but they were far from neck-and-neck for me. Using both the iPod and Zune more-or-less equal amounts over a week, the iPod needed 1 recharge to the Zune's 3.
It's the sound of Microsoft failing.
I'm kind of surprised at your review.
You mentioned nothing about the screen of the zune, which is easily the most beautiful screen to grace any portable device and the most noticeable feature by far. As a double (and maybe triple) edged sword the screen is also a little on the small side for video playback, but that also makes the zune a much more manageable size and doesn't feel like you are packing heat carrying around the ibrick. (who spends all their time watching videos on their touch anyway)
Also, I think the ipod is way harder to see when walking down the street in the sun because the screen is so reflective and the contrast on it sucks. Every one of my friends with an iphone or touch is always shielding it from the sun with their hands to look at it. I have no problems with seeing the zune on a sunny day.
Lastly, I noticed a long time ago that battery life on new devices always seems disappointing. Until I realized I overuse new devices like crazy. Since you have your ipod touch dialed in, you aren't messing with it and exploring it, you are probably plugging it in and locking the screen. I bet you would not see much difference if you did a controlled test instead of looking it how often you happened to charge it. Perhaps have them play music side by side until their batteries die. And then keep in mind there is rarely a device nowadays (save the iPhone) that cannot last a full days use, so plugging it in overnight is not a traumatizing experience.
Lastly: STYLE STYLE STYLE. Hard to believe, but some of us in the more professional world like to have devices that don't look like a 13 year old girl designed the outside. The Zune looks like a fighter jet compared to the ipod.
I'm just excited that there is finally a worthwhile option for personal media that does not start with an "i"
It seems microsoft will always be playing catch-up against steve jobs
I've owned the zune 30GB since it came out, and I'm not getting a zuneHD. I've thought about it again and again, but decided on a cowon s9, instead.
The zuneHD has HD radio (which, by the way, doesn't mean high def), but I rarely listen to the radio, so that's no good for me.
The cowon s9 has an OLED screen, and looks much nicer than both the iPod touch and the zuneHD, in my opinion. The battery life is INSANE, and it supports MANY codecs for audio.
Also, the screen in the zuneHD doesn't show HD quality, so there's not much point unless you're going to use the TV pack.
Actually if you have limewire the iPod does actually automatically takes the music and places it into the iTunes library then syncs them to the iPod, also my iPod automatically syncs photos in my pictures folder located in the My Documents folder.
If I remember correctly, you can click & drag files onto the cowon without the need for installing software on your computer.
This is amazing. The author admits he has prejudice against the Zune HD, and yet he still writes the article. How about getting someone unbiased who has never used both players? This article is dripping with Apple fanboy-ism.
Oh yeah, and whats with the purposely low quality pictures? You're telling me you didn't notice the reflections? I seems like you took the pictures in a dark room.
Itunes 9 has watched folders with automatic addition. Investigate more like a decent reporter.
I'll second the fanboy comment. Maybe Apple will keep winning by virtue of what can only be described as fanatacism, but it's not due to insurmountable tech superiority.
Who cares? These people seem to call out anything pro Apple like it f*%$ing matters. If you don't like it, don't buy it. Are you really that worried soooooo many people will read this they'll subliminally only want Apple products from now on because of the propaganda? People who love their Apple products are proud to say it, as much as anyone else is at calling them out on it and claiming the reverse. Big deal!!!! It shouldn't change how you feel about what you like in a product, so go suck an egg. I feel Apple has a future since a majority of the Windows generation is going to croak first. Even WITH an XBOX around, Apple just thinks faster.
@ Corinne Iozzio
I do think you should have passed on this review due to your self stated prejudices.
However I do agree on the apps, Currently Apple wins there hands down.
I do hope Microsoft listens to the fact that Every review points this out.
In Hardware I think Microsoft wins this round hands down. and if they can get their apps store up to par (and open it up) they will do a lot better in the future.
I want robust competition between multiple manufacturers for these things.
I have heard some good things about that player hopefully they get some more press.
More people making good competing products are good for the consumers.
i suppose i am baffled at how people can even think to compare apples app superiority to the zune hd. Its only been out 2 freaking weeks!!! And how long has apples app store been building?!. Given msoft should have coordinated things a little better to have more apps and games ready at time of launch but none the less. seriously annoys me to hear people complain about that. don't get me wrong i would love to have apps and games on the zune hd, and i won't get one till it has a decent library of em. but in all honesty that shouldn't even be a comparison point with respect to its newness(is that a word).
i feel the zune hd is only going to evolve into a superior product. as for the first gen i am impressed, but i can only imagine its gonna get better and better. people just need to be patient and soon enough msoft will have their app marketplace up and running with some zune integration.
Zune as to IPods as the Commodore Amiga was to the IBM PC or the Mac: superior hardware and software marketed ineptly by idiots.
"3. No-Look Controls:"
I prefer buttons. They are no-look controls.
just face it people apple sux and will die soon enuff
dont worry PC fans MICROSOFT will NEVER die
oh and to thows of u buying something els....atleast ur not buying i-fail products :)