Rich’s Zune Review

Hey everyone!

Well, here it is! My first basic product review! I’ll break down from a high level. People can take a peek when I bring it in.

So far, so good! Unlike a bunch of the ‘professional’ reviewers out there who called it Microsoft’s ‘iPod killer’ (which MS doesn’t seem to have said it was), I have actually used and own one!

So far, I have been very pleased with it. Albeit, it typical Microsoft fashion, there are some slight things that will probably be corrected and tuned further down the road–such as the DRM, little software additions, WIFI expansion, and WHERE ARE ALL THE ACCESSORIES? I did luck out and find what I was looking for today, a car charger and a cable for my car stereo but choices are few and far between. Other than that, the experience has been pretty good.

Because I heard nightmares about the install, I just double checked everything and made sure all my updates were OK, followed directions to the letter, and I didn’t have a single hiccup. I did have to restart for it to update my registry ( par for the course again for Windows) but not a single problem for us ‘Softies. :) It is working great on my Media Center 2005 box.

I set it to auto sync with my system, and it automatically found all my music, and loaded it up and it was filled within 2 hours ( I only have 25G of MP3s). Then, using DVD Decrypter and probably one of your favorite programs, Handbrake, put some DVD’s on it, all work great. The Zune Marketplace does convert the MP4 file into WMA (I think that’s it) by software, so it took me about 2 hours to do the entire convert on my system, but thats fine. I was also watching my PhotoshopTV video podcasts on it.

The navigation is really quick and intuative. I prefer the 4 directional click pad on this one. It’s easier for me to use, just like I thought it would be. I don’t really need to be precise as I would have to try to do with a click wheel. I like that you can sort the list by artist, genre, album, song, etc without going back up a level, but you still do end up hitting the back enough, just not as much as you would have to on the iPod from what I’ve heard. but I wish there could be some adjustments to it regarding where the ‘send’ button comes up for wireless sharing, it kind of gets in the way because it has the ‘play all’ then the ‘share’ button before the individual song tracks, but I’m basically over that now. I am annoyed that they are using the 200×200 pixel images from their image libraries for WMP and stretching them to 240×240 instead of rescanned 240×240 pixel art. It looks a little fuzzy, but passable. One more example of something Apple wouldn’t have allowed out to slip out the door, but I would imagine that this, like everything else Microsoft does, will be refined in the marketplace. Much to my chagrin.

The case doesn’t show fingerprints, which is nice for an oily person like me. Damn genetics! If I had an iPod, it would look like it was rubbed on a pizza! It is pretty scratch resistant as well, because I’m a freaking klutz, and I will bump it on stuff all the time.. I also have the brown one, but contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have a ‘turd-like’ appearance. It’s brown, yes, but that translucent green ‘doubleshot’coating looks really cool to me. The brown and green kind of gives me a ‘nature’ feel when the light hits it, and not the ‘bowel movement’ feel that haters like to mention! :) The screen is bright and crisp, and photos look good on it. I quickly made some backgrounds to put on there, and it is kind of a neat little feature. The FM tuner works pretty good, but I can’t get the Timberwolves on it!!! They are on FM now, but you know what? I can’t get them on this side of town with any radio I have, so that rules that out! There are conplaints that you can’t record FM radio on it, but from the sounds of it, patches are coming down for the players that CAN record FM to lock the feature out. The bastard record companies are doing that to Creative’s players.

The Zune Marketplace is OK for a first version–I hardly have any experience with iTunes, but I would guess that MS did their best to copy it as much as possible. The syncing took me a little time to get used to, this being my first media player and all. I just need to be a little more attentive as to where I put my files so I can find them! There have been a ton of people on reviews saying ‘there aren’t any TV shows or anything on it, so it sucks” and that’s true, but that is on the way. From the sounds of it, it isn’t on there as of yet, because they are in negotiations with these companies. The Xbox HD TV and movie rental stuff opened on the 23rd, so with Zune and the 360 working together, that should only be a matter of time.

For it being a first gen product, I think that they have a great starting point, but they have a long way to go, and they know it. The first firmware upgrade will probably be out in a few months, and that should be putting a newsreader into the Zune Marketplace, and, if “Willie G” has it right, wireless streaming to other windows devices, including the Xbox 360, which is perfect for me! All I know is, it may not have a leg up on Apple, but it does on pretty much everyone else in the industry. They want to run as a strong #2 well they will probably be a moderate #2 because of some heavy anti-Micro$oft reviews out there.

My brother in law, who has had 3 iPods, wants to buy one of these, basically for the larger screen. It is nice to see movies bigger, even though it is the same resolution, that extra 40% size for the small clarity loss trade off is worth it for me. If I wanted clarity, I would be sitting at home watching my home theater and not sweating a handheld device a foot from my face. I said he should wait until the next widescreen iPod comes out, or at least the 2G Zune comes out to see what they do with that. Also, the size difference in the players is totally negligable. When you look at them side to side, like I did with my brother in law’s– sure it’s bigger than an iPod, but come on. In reality, you don’t really notice because it has a solid, quality build to it and it is well balanced.

The nerds already had the 3 day/3 play DRM hacked and the work around was posted in 12 hours, as well as making the device a harddrive was finished a few days ago. The rubes are hacking it big time, and trying to get ‘the Penguin” running Rockbox on it and trying to find fun things to do with the wifi. There are some cool things that are supposed to come down the pipe later through updates from Microsoft, like the ‘DJ’ feature that allows you to stream music to 3 other zunes simultaniously, and also some wireless hotspot integration. I am also sure that the infamous clock, calendar, and contact list features will also be on the way by popular demand, as well as a sleep timer. That stuff should just be on there. But, with all things Microsoft, they seem to wait until people demand something then update, versus having some forsight to do it right away, but once again, that’s how they work. It is noticable that this device was made by the Xbox team, though. They are a solid group, and they will end up changing MS for the better, that’s for sure.

Some of the other much maligned things like Zune Points, are taking some heat for the 79 points per song, but they are saving cash without having to pay credit card transaction fees every week of combined sales on the site, and they can also be used worldwide, and can be traded with people in different countries. It also gives Microsoft some cost flexability, and ways for customers to earn points down the road without having to deal with pure currency issues. Also, this idea that the wifi is ‘crippled’ is absolute hogwash. What do these people think, that companies just want to give the music away for free? They are selling it, for the love of God. A lot of the iPod zealots are all over this saying that the 3-3DRM is retarded, but if an iPod came out with this first, they would be, to use the poorly chosen words of Steve ‘Monkey Boy’ Ballmer, ‘squirting’ all over the place. They shouldn’t forget that Apple is in the business to make money as well, not to do things just because they OWE it to the customer. People should be happy that they can listen to songs a few times and if they like it, they can buy it. What is wrong with that? I don’t know. All of that will be tweaked as they figure out what is working. Hopefully, they will make it a 7 play/7 day thing instead. What they need to do is get that streaming DJ feature working–that would be cool.

As far as it goes, I really like it, and enjoy using it. I am installing the line in to the back of my Alpine today, and ordering a mount for my dash and should have it ready to go in my Jeep. My review here is not as much as a Microsoft fanboy (I’m an Xbox 360 fanboy, to be exact) but as someone who has never owned an MP3 player. I do like iPods, but I just can’t get past that damn clickwheel! I’m probably the only one on the planet that doesn’t like it.

I’ll bring it to the next GeekGather so people can take turns smashing it with a mallet!!!


4 thoughts on “Rich’s Zune Review”

  1. I am still waiting for a player big enough to hold all my music. In the meanwhile, the good old iPod mini with its 4GB of HD space works just fine for me. I am fortunate enough where I have access to my tunes at work just like I do at home – so the good stuff is never that far on any given day. And for a longer road trip the mini can still hold plenty of tunes. I find that lately, the mini has become a holding pond for my favorite podcasts rather than music. Big shout out to TWiT, as if they needed another plug ;)

  2. Michael, don’t you have about 40 TB of MP3’s? Can’t you assemble a RAID set up in a backpack that you can lug around? :) I agree about the size, though. But honestly, I don’t need to have everything I own on it, only the stuff that I find important enough to be in the heavy rotation. I can wait til the end of the day to switch out stuff! I just needed a new gadget to play with!

  3. Sadly, nowhere near 40TB of MP3 files. Right now they’re all 160K MP3 files (ask me some time one the technical reasons behind my not using file sharing services to get music) and take about 110G of space for 24000 tracks.

    Once I an ocean of disk space and decide on a final format, I’ll re-rip the entire thing into some lossless format. FLAC and AAC are the leaders right now. I just need some time to compare the relative merits of each.

    By my figures, going FLAC will take about 750GB for the same 24000 tracks. I haven’t done a study for AAC yet. One of the concerns is something that’s easy to use with my iPod AND my SlimMP3 player.

    Unfortunately, that will require a larger iPod to hold the same number of tracks as it currently has. I’ve got my 40G pretty full with my must-have albums and about 5G worth of my most recently added albums.

    Now, when it comes to DVD collections, I’m not even sure I want to know how much disk space that project is going to take.

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