The first thing you, (and everyone) will notice is just how incredibly sexy the Zune HD is. The sleek casing and big, glossy touchscreen are one of a kind features of the Zune HD. The body is brushed metal with plastic edging. The screen is a 3.3 inch OLED display. Beneath the screen, is a sliver of a home button. The rear of this device has a slight curve on the sides. The bottom of the device includes the Zune adapter port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Opposite of that, at the top of the device, is a hidden power button. On the left hand side there is the media button. With this button you can bring up the media navigation menu. Here you get options for back/forward and volume adjustment.
Inside, the Zune HD is the Tegra APX 2600. This chip has a focus on HD video and complex graphics performance. The Zune HD will be able to handle intense graphical games including 3D games. The 65nm Zune HD contains a massive eight cores. The Zune HD comes in 16GB and 32GB capacities, in an array of colors with art and engraving and a purchasable Zune pass, this is the device of the century. The Zune HD has a vivid 480 x 272 OLED display, and handles multitouch input including gesture support. The Zune HD’s display is incredibly responsive and is super quick feeling just like an iPod touch or iPhone. There is one disadvantage of the OLED screen (or any screen, Apple or Microsoft) this is its lack of performance in direct sunlight. The Zune HD features a new UI. The UI of the Zune HD is just as sexy looking as the player itself. Like most touchscreen devices, the Zune HD provides a screen lock which requires a swipe to unlock. You are also able to swipe to the right, bringing up “pinned” media, recent selections, and the newest content that you added to your device. A swipe left takes you back to the main menu.
One of the biggest issues swirling around the launch of the Zune HD was the app question. Since from almost every angle the Zune HD looks like an iPod Touch competitor, applications are the next step. At the moment, the Zune HD is low on apps. The Zune Marketplace doesn’t have any 3rd party support yet, but it is on the way. It took Apple 10 months for a Facebook application and 10 months for 3rd party support. On the Zune HD you can download a free calculator, weather app, twitter app, and a handful of games for the Zune HD. My favorite application is MusicQuiz. This application is super addicting. There are some applications and games on the Internet that people have developed. So far no apps have unlocked the Tegra beast. These included apps are very addicting and a special part to the Zune HD.
Next comes the web browser. The browser was built upon the existing mobile Internet Explorer, but tweaked. The browser loads pages nicely and utilizes pinch zooming beautifully. Sadly, there are no tab options and no history. Forget about YouTube or Flash-based websites as well. These won’t work until an app comes out. On the plus side, the included on-screen keyboard is surprisingly accurate.
Zune players have always been known for their exorbitant audio and the Zune HD is no exception. Video quality on the Zune itself is perfectly crisp. At the moment the Zune HD is limited to certain video types but includes Avi and Dvix support.
Microsoft made some needed changes to its Zune software. On the Zune 3.0 Marketplace there were some bugs that crashed the software sometimes. Zune 4.0 solved these problems. Overall the software is even snappier than the 3.0 software. The new Quickplay screen basically is the same as on the device. Syncing content was smooth. It synchronizes faster than any other Zune or Apple device. The software is almost the same, but almost all glitches were worked out of it.
On the Internet you can find many modifications for the Zune HD (and all other Zunes). One of the modifications found in the interent is for the Zune to be able to use Windows Media Player instead of the Zune software.
Many reasons to buy a Zune HD over a itouch right now is the gorgeous screen, crisp HD radio, slick design, and (at the moment, not so good) web browser. Oh, and you have the awesome bragging rights to say that you own a one of a kind special device that no one else you know has.
One awesome thing that Microsoft has that Apple doesn’t is the one and only “Zune Pass”. The Zune pass costs $14.99 a month, and with this you can basically enjoy all the music you can find in the Zune Marketplace. With this you can keep ten tracks free every month; that’s 120 songs free to keep a year.
The Zune HD is a superb media player with a lot of great features, and only slightly lacks in the app department. But for Microsoft and Zune, this is “One small step for mankind, one giant leap for technology”.
Rating: 4/5 Gears