Zune is Here, Unwrapping, Pictures, Early Review

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After a late night of surfing Engadget and Gizmodo about the Zune I sent out an email at work to see what the general consensus was about the Zune. Since I work with lots of smart, techy people I thought I’d find one Zune early adapter. Nope none. What I got was some staunch pro-iTuners and the opposite of folks shocked that I, of the non-tech folk, would stray from the simple elegance of the iPod. But here I was saying why not? One co-worker said with something like this all you need to do is check it out at the store and if it feels good then you make the call. Another kind co-worker dropped off a copy of Mossberg’s review of the Zune and like a lot of reviews it was pretty positive. All of the Zune’s faults seemed to be why I didn’t like the iPod. The screwy click wheel, the square video player, the fingerprint absorbing finish etc.

There was so much reaction that my mind was made up before lunch. I headed to Best Buy after work to get a look at the darn thing.


After passing a line of tents full of PS3 campers I headed to the portable MP3 players at the front of the store. The Zune looks much better in person than I thought. The floor sample felt nice and hefty without being too bulky even attached to the display. My main concern was to check out the video playback and the sample had a skateboarding video. You play the video and the screen orientation flips to the horizontal mode and it looks good, really good. I was pretty much sold right then but I had to check out the 30GB iPod too just to make sure this is what I really wanted.

I wandered to the other side of the display, picked it up and immediately zoomed past the folder I wanted with that damn click wheel. I still don’t understand how people like that thing. Yes the iPod was slimmer and lighter, noticeably so, but it was also full of smudges and the screen was tiny in comparison to the Zune. I asked the friendly clerk for a brown Zune and checked out. With a 12% coupon from Reward Zone (the best thing I’ve ever signed up for) and a rubber protective case I was out of there for around $260.

Unwrap the thing and you can tell packaging has hit a new level of extreme. Check out the copious amount of high-grade cardboard:

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Now for the actual Zune. I had already downloaded the software, imported my iTunes songs (the files actually are still in the itunes folder on my hard drive but show up in the Zune library like I downloaded them fresh) and it works well for being a just released Microsoft product. So now that I brought the thing home I had to synch it up with the software/library. There was a quick “firmware” update and the sync started and all my songs (27 GBs right now) were moving over to the Zune. An hour later I’m jamming to the thing.

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Sound quality is quite nice through the supplied earbuds and I think overall it’s the amps that are better on the Zune. It doesn’t distort as much as the iPod. I really liked the artwork too. Now, one thing I read is that the art looks pixilated and distorted because of the screen size. I say that’s not it at all. Check out the commercials and the theme of the marketing. The Zune is supposed to have this lazy Saturday afternoon feel where you just listen to records all day as if it were the 1970s and we weren’t all busier than hell. Well the 1970s were hazy and I think that’s why the album artwork looks kind of muted.

 

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Perhaps it’s because the video comes in crystal clear that if they wanted to make the art that sharp they would have. Also the preloaded artwork in horizontal slideshow form was crisp, as a horizontal background it had that same faded/muted look as the album art. Anyway…

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Check out how huge my hands look in these photos in relation to the Zune. The Zune is not that small and my hands aren’t that big. It’s about the width and a little taller than a pack of cigarettes but not as deep. The FM function works flawlessly with left and right jumping to the nearest strong signal.

EarbudsThe earbuds have magnets in them so they clip together when not in use so as not to get tangled. Neat. They also feel a bit too light and flimsy for my taste but I’ll probably get used to it and I have noise canceling earbuds for the plane.

Video looks great overall, I just have to figure out where I’m getting my content from and how to get some DVDs onto the thing…I would think a video marketplace will open in the near future as well just like iTunes.

Overall I’m pretty excited and glad I have almost unlimited music to listen to for my upcoming Thanksgiving/L.A. Auto Show travel. I’m also secretly happy I’m not one of the iPod people that annoy me so much on the train and walking in front of traffic, of course I’m basically doing the same thing, I just won’t be “one of the iPod people.”

I’ll update the Zune’s real-life battery usage and if any glitches come up as well.