I recently purchased a refurbished Microsoft Zune off of Woot.com. It’s the 30 gig, black model. They were selling them for about half of the brand new price, so it was a pretty good deal. I’ve been using it for awhile now, and I’ve decided to write a bit about my impressions of the Zune device itself and the Zune software.
I love the Zune. Ever since I got it, I’ve been falling more and more in love with it every day. Or something like that. Here are a few things in particular that I find particularly great about it.
1. The casing. At first glance, the casing seems a bit cheap. They really didn’t try at all to hide the seam lines between the front casing and the rear casing. I didn’t like it at first. However, after a few days of use, I noticed that the device really has a solid feel to it. The plastic feels like that really strong laptop plastic that the old IBM’s or business model Dells are made out of. The buttons feel solid too; there’s nothing flimsy about the Zune at all. It also has a matte finish that does not show fingerprints or smudges at all, unlike Apple’s iPod. I absolutely love this, because with the glossier finishes, fingerprints and smudges really show up, and you spend a good portion of your time rubbing the thing off on your shirt trying to buff it back to shininess. Not an issue with the Zune.
2. The screen. The screen is large and bright, and I have no trouble at all watching my podcasts on it. For a hand held device, the resolution is decent too.
3. Updates. Unlike Apple, Microsoft is not forcing you to buy a new mp3 player to get new features. Coinciding with the recent release of the new Zune2 was a firmware update for the original Zune 30. The update added the new interface as well as the new features from the Zune2. Two of the biggest feature additions were “Wireless Sync” and Podcasts (the original Zune software did not have an easy way to find/add podcasts.) Wireless Sync allows you to connect your Zune to your PC using WiFi. (No, it doesn’t work over the internet. Local area only for now.) This comes in handy for times when you are just too lazy to get up off the couch to plug in the USB, but you want that new episode of Ask a Ninja synced over.
4. Zune software works well. The software that comes with the Zune is decent. While it’s not going to make the avid computer user too happy with it’s lack of controls (ID3 tag editing in particular), it is great for the everyday user. Everything is laid out in a fairly logical position, and the interface looks good. The Zune Marketplace has plenty of music to choose from, as well as a decent directory of podcasts to subscribe to. Overall, I’d say Microsoft did a decent job on the most recent release.
5. The Zune interface. Using the Zune is easy. The text size on the screen is large enough to easily read from a distance. All of the options are where you would expect them to be, and the buttons do what you would expect them to do. It performs operations smoothly, and it doesn’t have the sluggish feeling of some other players.
1. It could be thinner. The Zune does feel a bit bulky compared to a device like the iPod. The recently released Zune2, however, seems to be quite a bit thinner, so this is not an issue in the new Zune2.
2. No easy way to sync with Linux. For now there doesn’t seem to be a way to run the Zune software under Linux, even with WINE. In some of the forums I’ve read a few people have been using a Windows XP virtual machine to run the Zune software. However, this solution lacks elegance in my opinion. Why would I want to install a VM to run WINDOWS on my Linux computer? That’s not a solution, that’s just a lazy work around. Until someone comes out with a program to sync the Zune in Linux, I’m stuck with using my Vista box to do it.
3. No podcast support. This actually was fixed in the latest version of the Zune software/firmware. Now you can subscribe to podcasts just like with iTunes.
4. Cannot be used as portable storage. I don’t know what Microsoft was thinking. For some reason, the Zune does not show up as a removable disk unless you implement a small registry hack (who wants to do that on every computer they use?). It seems obvious that a person would want the ability to use the Zune as storage, considering it’s relatively small size and large 30 gig storage capacity, or 80 gigs on the new Zune2.
Overall, the Zune is a worthy mp3 player that actually may give the iPod some competition. The Zune 80 (2nd generation Zune) will give you 80gb of storage with a nice 3.2 inch screen, as well as a touch pad for navigation (similar to a track pad on a laptop). The iPod for the same price will give you the same storage, but only a 2.5 inch screen. Here’s a side-by-side of the Zune 80 and the iPod Classic.
Apple also has their new iPod Touch, but really there isn’t much of a comparison between an iPod Touch and a Zune. The Touch is more of a PDA, while the Zune is just an mp3 player.
I’ve heard a lot of talking about how the Zune was a disaster, but I’ve been using mine for a few weeks and I just l0ve it. IMHO, it looks nice, is designed well, and does exactly what I want it to. Good job Microsoft (for a change).