Today we will unbox the new launched Microsoft Zune HD media player as well as reviewing the all new Zune software, version 4. We will go over all aspects of the player and software and its tight integration. The drive marks the third hardware revision in the Zune lineup, and by far the best. The player features a beautiful OLED touchscreen, HD radio, NVIDIA Tegra HD video playback engine and Wi-Fi sync.
The first page will review the new Zune 4 software, the following pages will review the actual player. Do not hesitate to start on the page of your choice. We’ll also be comparing hardware and software to the market leader, the iPod Touch.
|Software you need to download and install|
|Zune 4 software|
|Obligatory: You must download and install version 4 of the Zune software. Choose the option you need whether it is 32-bit or 64-bit Windows. To download!|
Overall, the Zune software is pretty straightforward to use, and aesthetically I really think it puts other sync software like iTunes to shame. A “mini player” is also included for the first time, a way to keep reading in a smaller mode while retaining most of the options. You can also pin the player to your taskbar for easier access, like with most player software.
At this time, however, you NEED the Zune software to use your Zune HD, as it won’t sync with a third-party media player or even Microsoft’s. Windows Media Player 11, somewhat surprising. The software also adds “quickplay”, “pin” and Smart dj. Smart DJ is the most outstanding, with the function of creating playlists from your favorite artists, using your own library, any music on your Zune HD and the Zune Marketplace. If you don’t own the songs, they will be “suggested”, which implies that you have to buy them from the Zune Marketplace or get them however you want.
Quickplay lets you “pin” six pieces of content (music or video) as a sort of easy access to your favorites. You can also easily access recently played media.
Of course, you will be able to sync your Zune HD using the software and the first few setup steps when connecting the player for the first time will help you go through the different options of what you want to sync etc.
Quickplay gives quick access to Smart DJ, your recent history, and your recently added music and videos. You can select five favorite artists, for easier access to Smart DJ playlists later. The Quickplay page is like your home page, a portal to all other aspects of the software.
After you’ve created a Smart DJ playlist (I normally do this through the browse page), you’ll see a screen similar to the one above. You will have the actual playlist on the right side, with all the songs you already own playable and with the “suggested” tracks grayed out, as noted above. The background will be a collage from your album cover art. You can then save your playlist for later, as well as rate or switch to “mix view”. You can also get more information about the album or artist by pressing the “i” button, as well as seeing what other tracks you have as part of the album. If you don’t have them, the software will obviously tell you to go to the Zune Marketplace and buy a Pass to purchase them.
The “Collection” section is just that, a collection of your music, videos, podcasts, and photos. Aesthetically, just like the rest of the software, it’s very cool. Scroll by artist, album or track and listen to the music. As easy as that. The same goes for podcasts, photos, and videos. Video playback of many different codecs is also good.
Video playback is simple just like with iTunes etc.
The new edition that comes in version 4, is the addition of the App Store for the Zune HD. However, at this point there are few games and even fewer apps. I downloaded the calculator for my Zune HD and will update it when more are available. Microsoft has already announced that all applications will be free, and all will be written by Microsoft, or at least under the supervision of the Redmond giant. Twitter, Facebook and a few other games are announced so far. They are expected within a month.
There are indications, however, that Microsoft is looking to expand its development to third parties, especially given the launch of the XNA Games Studio 3.1 Zune Extensions APIs.
The Zune Marketplace has also been revamped and now offers better recommendations and a simpler interface. You can search for free music, videos, apps, podcasts to buy or download when available.
The Zune Marketplace, as you would expect however, has its flaws. There’s a small amount of movies, less music than iTunes, and payment plans are in Microsoft Points, points that NEVER match what you need, allowing the business to pocket wasted points. additional. Either way, HD in Zune HD means you can download 720p content to play on your TV using the $ 90 AV docking station (not included of course). There are only about 500 movies available.
All that remains of the software is the Social aspect, which I haven’t fully explored but looks exactly like previous editions. Join friends and chat. Log in using your hotmail / live / bing account or with a new email.
|On the next page, we’ll move on to the Zune HD hardware review. We will also compare the syncing process to that of the iPod Touch.|