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The new Zune, which replaces the old models, is Microsoft’s version of the iPod Touch — a gorgeous multitouch screen dominates the front. Its handsome, beveled metal case weighs next to nothing, yet still feels expensive and solid in the hand.
It’s nearly buttonless; you operate it as you do the iPod Touch — you navigate by tapping things on the screen, magnify photos or Web pages by spreading two fingers apart, rotate images by turning the player 90 degrees, and so on. The software design is fluid, beautiful and incredibly responsive.
The new Zune has a bright, sharp and colorful OLED screen (organic light-emitting diode, not that that helps). Finger streaks are an ugly problem, but only when the screen is off.
The Zune HD is narrower and shorter than the Touch, and a hair thicker. It’s available in black or silver; online, you can order a Zune HD with any of several fancy artist-designed back panels.
The “HD” means two things. First, like its predecessors, this Zune can tune into FM radio (when the earbuds are attached; they’re the antenna), but now it can tune into HD radio stations, too.
HD radio was an initiative begun a few years ago by existing AM and FM radio stations to compete with the dawn of satellite radio. Today, 1,900 of those existing stations also broadcast free HD channels. These broadcasts sound better than AM and FM, and there’s no static, ever.
The Zune is among the very first portable radios that can even get HD stations. Still, HD radio isn’t a killer app. The stations can be hard to find — not to mention consumers who even know what HD radio is.
The Zune HD’s name also refers to the hi-def (720p) movies that you can buy on Microsoft’s online store. The store is a big new initiative for Microsoft; the same music, TV shows and movies will eventually be available for Xbox, Zune and even Windows Mobile cellphones. Buy a movie on one gadget, watch it on another.
At the time of it's release, the Zune HD was heavily overshadowed by the iPod Touch, which was undoubtedly the better product, but the Zune HD still had some things going for it, and it's still a product that can be great in your personal life.
I'm sure you all remember the iPod touch, but what's this Zune thing? That's a line I hear oh-so-often when people are discussing the Zune. Despite producing arguably better sound, the iPod had, and still has, so much more to offer. Microsoft simply missed the mark with the Zune HD and they've been playing catch up ever since. Due to Microsoft underestimating the future influence of apps the Zune lacked heavily in the sense that it was a barren wasteland in terms of apps, besides the bare minimum included with it, such as radio, social, internet, photos and video, all of which the iPod had, and more. Yes, this review may seem all doom and gloom, but the Zune HD was in fact a solid MP3 player and, despite being rather obsolete in the days of smartphones with built in music players, it is more than worth the money for the price you can pick them up for nowadays. You'll normally find them for £20-£40 on eBay, I got mine for about £35, which is an absolute steal if you're looking for a player for just you're music and nothing more. Read on for a breakdown of the general features!
Audio. Considering the Zune HD is predominantly an MP3 player, I'd be expecting the audio quality to be incredibly high, and so should you! That's exactly what we get, incredibly high quality audio, which, as far as my ears can tell, is better than that of a current generation iPod! The Zune HD does however have no external speakers, another function that the iPod does have, which is a major let down for when you want to let your friends hear that awesome new song you downloaded!
Display. The display is very nice, crisp and clear. It's not quite a retina display, in fact it's far from it, but considering the age of the device it holds up well against the competitors.
Interface. The interface is one of the highlights of the device. The panel layout, which appears to be an early version of the layout used in the new Windows Phone's, is very nice and feels intuitive to use. Every control is contained on the touch screen, with the exception of the home button, which can often become a nuisance when trying to change the volume, which requires you to press a button on the side then press the screen to adjust volume and switch songs.
Apps. They're non-existent. Microsoft clearly didn't see the potential in apps back at the release of the Zune HD, leading to their absence in the Zune HD. There are a few basic apps, photos, videos, ect. but no third-party apps in an App Store format that was present on the iPod.
Overall, the Zune HD doesn't quite match up to the iPod Touch, but it is quite a nifty little device if all you're looking for is a place to store all of your songs. If you're looking for a cheap MP3 player with a nice layout and good quality, the Zune HD is the device for you but if you require a device with access to apps, internet and the full works, the iPod Touch is the device you need.