Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from viewing as part of this site because has been discontinued. You can still read our original review below, but TopTenREVIEWS is no longer updating this product’s information.
With the success of Apple’s iPod Touch, Microsoft was not about to leave that well untapped. So in spirit of competition, their response was to come out with the Zune HD to battle it out for the leading touch screen MP3 player. The war still rages but some of the dust has settled and it’s pretty close. Each has its little things that owners always talk up and throw in the face of the others users but really it’s pretty much neck and neck. So what are the differences? Is the Zune HD better than the iPod Touch? Let’s examine the Zune HD and then you can decide for yourself what one is best for you because it comes down to what works better for you.
So here we go with the much debated Zune HD. Before it came out, there were two other versions of the Zune. Both of the first two versions weren’t the “iPod killer” that some expected or boasted. As a general rule, unless you had a defective unit, those first Zune models were fine but nothing special. They had their users that loved them and they had some that didn’t. With the HD they finally put the pressure on Apple. The Zune HD integrated many of the key selling points of the iPod Touch with the key points of the Zune. The result was a pretty amazing piece technology.
The biggest win for the Zune is still music. Although the Zune is a multi media device as well, it is also still a true blue MP3 player. No other player on the market can compete with the Zune when it comes to music for a couple reasons. First of all the player supports MP3, WMA, WMA lossless and AAC formats (with AAC support you can put your iTunes songs on the Zune) as well as audio book files from Audible and OverDrive. You store your music like most MP3 players, by artist, album, song, genre and playlist. However, the Zune has gone the next step and added a little extra to it. If you pull up an artist it gives you about all the information you would want about that individual or group as far as what they have done (albums released and such). The background is an image of that person or band, and then you have the option to browse their albums, profile, more images and even a list of related artists. It is always nice to know about all the music an artist has out so that you can be sure download it all. The only bad things to say about the Zune, as far as music is concerned, is that there isn’t any custom equalizer options, still only presets, and you’ll want to replace the ear phones it comes with some of your own.
With Wi-Fi the Zune breaks the norm of music players and opens up a chasm of joy for music lovers. With a monthly fee of 15 bucks you get the Zune Pass which gives you unlimited access to all the music you can handle. On top of that you get 10 songs per month that you download and keep for life. Ten songs for keeps and access to all the online music you want is a music dream. All the great songs you listen too you can “pin” into the Quickplay screen and build a playlist on the go as you discover more and more songs you enjoy.
If you still haven’t had enough music after that, then you can always pull the final major music card out of the sleeve and enjoy the radio. Whether you just feel like listening to the radio as a change or need a little inspiration for what to download next, sometimes the radio is just handy to have. The Zune has always had FM radio on it. The best thing about the FM tuner on the Zune is that the Zune lets you know the name of the song playing and allows you to tag it so you can download. How many times have we heard a song on the radio and wished we knew who sang it or wished we had it in our own library right that very moment? The Zune already had this wonderful ability but with this new Zune they now have HD radio as well.
Where the Zune does not completely dominate is in the video and game area. It’s not that the Zune is worse than anyone else, it’s just that they’re about par. One plus though is the new 3.3 inch OLED screen that gives a fairly vivid 16:9 display. The image quality is quite nice but it probably doesn’t replace the big screen in your living room for obvious size reasons. Also, the OLED screen doesn’t show up well in direct sunlight so you’ll want to find a little shade. Along those same lines the Zune HD can stream 720p high definition to your TV. The catch to that one is that you have to buy the Zune’s AV Dock (HDMI and composite). Like most handhelds, the Zune offers only a limited amount of video formats that it supports. Thankfully they added a few important ones like Xvid in the last upgrade.
So there it is, the Zune HD in a nutshell. Its strongest point is easily its music and the weakest is easily the apps, or in this case, near complete lack of apps. They have some of the main ones like a calculator, weather, Facebook and Twitter but aside from that they really need to step it up if they expect to compete with iPod apps. In everything else though the Zune HD excels or is at least at the same level as the competition.