Saturday, September 13, 2008

Zune 3rd gen - Finally a legit player from Microsoft

The Zune is overall a great product and I would recommend it to anyone. This review makes some comparisons to the iPod Classic because many are familiar with the iPod Classic and are debating between these two often.

Positives for the Zune:
- Sound Quality exceeds that of the Classic, while the classic is good it has too much focus on the low end and really isn't all that great in the mids. The Zune has great balance meaning it plays low/mids/highs exceptionally well, matching the 5th gen iPod in my opinion. [Tested with Bose Around The Ear Headphones, won't be noticed much with cheap/stock ear buds]

- Interface is wild and more modern than other MP3 players. You'll feel like you are in 2008 with the device's interface. You can also customize it, while customization is limited to changing the wallpaper its still something not many other players have. [including the classic]

- The large screen is nice for video..I haven't ran into any pixelation problems that some people report with the resolution of 320 x 240 on that size of the screen..however your mileage may vary. The screen is much better suited than the dinky 2.5 screen that is on the Classic.

- Navigation with the Zune pad is a breeze and better than the Classic. A few reasons being that a) you can press the buttons to adjust volume in your pocket [the classic relies on luck that you can actually get the touch sensitive wheel to respond through your pants], b) the zune pad sticks out from the unit which makes it easier to feel for than the classic which the click wheel is pretty well flush with the unit itself, c) you can navigate with pin point navigation, use the touch function to scroll fast and the click function to get precise.

- Microsoft continues to make improvements to the product like the Zune 3.0 release that adds the FM Radio feature that allows you to add music off the radio to your cart or with wireless download the song directly to your Zune. Clock is introduced [a feature that was lacking that people constantly complained about, MICROSOFT LISTENS!], and the Wifi Marketplace is also introduced which allows you to browse the marketplace wirelessly as well as preview/download songs instantly if you have a Zunepass.

- The software on the PC looks very modern..where as iTunes has virtually remained the same since its release on the PC. The software has the ability to combine albums with a simple drag n drop which allows you to combine singles into their full featured albums with a simple click. Getting Album art is easy as well as track listings for a album if you are missing tag information..if you are missing tag information and the software can't find it, it will give you a drop down list of all albums on the CD and allow you to choose which track is the right one..none listed? No problem you can keep it its current track name. Manual Sync is NOW supported officially, meaning the device can run independently of your Zune Collection. The software can actually work with a external drive, when I tried with iTunes 7.6 it would close by itself. Mixview is nice, you can simply right click a album click mixview to get a view of several related artists to find new music with.

- Zune Pass, almost all the music on the Marketplace supports it..some might be annoyed with the fact you have to pay $15 a month forever unless you want to lose your songs, some might also have a problem with not owning the music or that some songs aren't available for the Zune Pass. I personally think its a great concept and I have absolutely no complaints about paying $15 for all the songs I can download.

- Smudges and scratches might be a problem for some if you are really picky the new gloss front is prone to scratches from metal objects [keys, coins, etc.].

- Its made of plastic which could be taken either a) a good thing because its lighter b) a bad thing because its obviously not as tough.

- Software is still behind when compared to iTunes but improves with every update. Some complaints include, Rating system is a "Like, Don't Like" System giving you very limited options when you find songs that aren't GREAT but are either have to hate it or like it. If you are in a certain spot in your collection and click Marketplace then go back your spot is lost and Zune software returns to the top of your list. The same happens when you are at a certain spot in the marketplace as well, you leave and you end up reseting the marketplace back to home.

- Marketplace layout is very generic and needs some serious tweaking where as the iTunes Store is very precise the layout of the Marketplace is just sloppy, there really isn't much browsing you can do unless the artist is new because when you browse through artists in a specific genre they aren't in alphabetic order they are just scattered about I assume by popularity.

- Premium Earbuds are gone replaced with generic earbuds.

Overall a great alternative to the now dying Classic [which didn't get any upgrades beyond battery and the genius feature..unless you consider the 120GB a upgrade from the 80GB model last year].

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