Monday, November 13, 2006
The iPod has a new enemy in town, with an official release date of Nov. 14 in the USA and a $249.99 price tag. The Microsoft Zune opens a new market of "social" music connectivity.
Display: The key feature on the Zune is really the LCD display. It's actually 44% larger than a video iPod screen. It's large enough to watch a music video, or movie and actually see the expressions on peoples faces. The pixel density is about double that of modern laptops, so it's more like watching a mini HDTV than a mini television. The refresh rate is also higher than a television, which means the frames move extremely fast to make the motion appear fluid rather than jaggy or digitized.
User Interface: The user interface is the second most important feature (after the display) for making the Zune stand out. The large center button can be pushed in 4 directions (left, right , up, down) or pressed straight down. Anyone who can use a web browser can operate the Zune. Pressing the button is similar to clicking a mouse button, it takes you to whatever item is selected, and just like a web browser there is always a back button available. The layout is really minimalist, we observed many people at the LA preview picking up and using the device for the first time without asking any questions or looking for instructions. The menus have a sleek animation from one screen to another that gives the Zune a modern edgy feel, and personalized background pictures stay visible during navigation.
Sound: The sound quality of the device is 100% dependent on the headphones used, not so much the player. The standard ear buds are exactly that, standard. They look great, and sound as good as any earbuds on the market, but to get the most out of the player consider upgrading. We actually don't recommend the Zune Premium Earphones either unless you are limited for space. If sound quality is a must, consider blowing $300 on some nice headphones with active noise canceling.
Conclusion: Based on features, Zune is the premiere player available on the market today. It has already pressured other manufacturers to drop their prices in an attempt to remain competitive. Expect to see the mp3 category heat up over the next few years as the competition scrambles to add larger screens and Wi-Fi connectivity. The mp3 player is the first Zune branded device to be released, expect to see more Zune products in the future including the Zunephone and Zunegamer among others.
WMA, MP3, AAC, JPEG,WMV, MPEG-4, H.264 media playback
Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g) connectivity
30 GB Hard Drive
3 inch video LCD 320x240
White, Black, and Brown Colors
Dedicated song download site zune.net
Tested 13 hr battery life for audio, 4 hr video
3 day playback of Wi-Fi transfered songs from friends
XBOX (Microsoft) points compatability
Preloaded music videos
Over a dozen accessories at launch
5.6 ounces in weight, 4.4 x 2.4 x 0.58 inches size
Metric: 158 g, 112 x 61 x 14.7 mm size
Custom background images
WiFi transfer of photographs
Tag based storage system (Will not appear as drive)
PC Compatability (no Mac client at launch)
Zune tag enabled
Horizontal and vertical video orientation