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Review roundup: Zune HD plays catchup to iPod touch

post #1 of 232
Thread Starter 
Though the new Zune HD portable media player from Microsoft is garnering mostly positive reviews, critics say it's likely too little, too late against Apple's dominant iPod touch.

Seen as a response to Apple's iPod touch, the new touchscreen Zune HD is viewed as a major improvement over the previous hardware from Microsoft. It sports an OLED multi-touch screen, can tune into HD radio stations, offers playback of high-definition movies and TV shows, and has access to the $15/month unlimited download Zune Pass.

The hardware is available with a 16GB capacity for $220 and 32GB for $290. Currently, it is only compatible with Windows machines.

But for all its promoted advantages the Zune HD has over its competitors, the new hardware also offers many things the iPod touch introduced years ago, including a full-fledged Web browser and games and applications. On the former, it's simply playing catchup, and on the latter, it will likely never compete with Apple's 75,000 program deep App Store.

Here are some of the Zune HD review highlights:

The New York Times' David Pogue:

The Zune HD is a truly beautiful piece of hardware and software from Microsoft, but it's hard not to feel sorry for the software giant, who, despite releasing a good product, only has 1.1 percent of the music player market.

"If this thing came out in a parallel universe where the iPod didnt exist, it would be hailed as a god." The iPod catalog is "superior" to the Zune, while the Zune's reputation is "for weirdos and losers."

"The Zune HD player isnt perfect, but its every bit as joyful, polished and satisfying as its rival. The question is whether Microsoft will stick it out long enough to close the catalog gap, the ecosystem gap and the image gap."

HD radio is a plus, but not a "killer app." The Zune music store can't compete with iTunes: only six million songs, 10,000 TV shows and 500 movies. Only nine apps currently available.

Zune Pass is appealing, Application store will grow, and all available software will be free. Music player is attractive and is full of "clever features." Web browser is basic, but "works well."

"Over all, Microsoft has done a truly beautiful job of this player and its software."

Chicago Sun-Times' Andy Ihnatko:

Microsoft's style is like a reckless gun-toting Tony Montana, spraying bullets until something works; Apple is like patient sniper that takes one shot and makes it count.

"Microsoft has finally hit its target squarely. Its a wonderful player that triumphantly justifies its existence in a world dominated by iPods. This statement will come as a significant shock to folks who remember how I began my review of the original Zune a few years ago."

Zune desktop app is "useful, clean," but the user interface is a "mixed bag." "There are times when I wish that Microsoft went with a dull, utilitarian interface like iTunes."

"The Zune is paradise for musical explorers. Acquisition can be spawned by a mere vague interest, and thus a vague interest can create a passionate following for a performer. 15 bucks a month seems like short money for that kind of service."

Microsoft's "points" system used to purchase movies and music is frustrating, rather than transacting with real money.

Wi-Fi sync works well and is very convenient; Zune HD UI is "a serious leap forward" from the iPod's "dull" media player.

As a music player it's "magnificent," though the iPod touch offers more value with the App Store. "Dig a hole somewhere. Drop all of the preceding Zunes in there. Forget they ever existed. The Zune HD is all about Patience Rewarded."

The Associated Press' Rachel Metz:

One of the best parts of the Zune HD is its multi-touch screen. "Videos and photos look super crisp, and I had no problem snuggling up with the Zune HD while watching an episode of sketch comedy show 'The State' that I downloaded from the Zune Marketplace over the corresponding computer software."

With the $90 dock sold separately, 720P HD movies can be played back on an HDTV.

The HD radio receiver, though, is "more impressive," but while HD radio stations were definitely clearer than FM, it isn't a huge leap.

The browser works, but has no support for Flash videos or YouTube. "Still, it has an easy-to-use touch-screen keyboard for entering Web site addresses, and it's good for reading the news, checking e-mail or updating your status on Facebook."

"The Zune HD proves the device is starting to come into its own as a multimedia contender. It's not quite there yet, but I am curious to see what Microsoft comes up with next."

Boston Globe's Hiawatha Bray:

The Zune HD is better than Apple's 2006 iPod players. "Too bad it's 2009."

The hardware makes the iPod touch look "fat and clunky." "The Zunes sleek, angular look is made possible by a touchscreen that uses organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, technology, instead of the standard liquid crystal displays. OLEDs generate their own light, so theres no little bank of fluorescent lamps mounted behind the screen. That makes the Zune remarkably thin and light."

Zune Pass subscribers can keep 10 MP3s per month even after they stop paying the $15 subscription. "It's unlimited listening at a dirt-cheap price; Apple ought to offer something like it."

The world has "moved on" from media players in the last three years. Now the iPod touch is all about the applications.

"Microsofts built a fine product, all right. Just not soon enough."

Other takes on the Zune HD are available from PCWorld, Ars Technica, PCMag.com, and Gizmodo.
post #2 of 232
Microsoft's new "wheel" has been hailed as having a revolutionary design, impeccable engineering, and a ton of potential uses, since none has been developed for its launch. Microsoft's wheel shows that the poor software giant has come up with a rare "hit" dismissing all the critics who so loudly railed against its previous efforts at "square" and triangular" versions. The company has such a hit on its hands, feeling on a roll - so to speak- that rumors are they'll develop a new form of energy transmission. Insiders call it "electricity".
post #3 of 232
Quote:
Zune's reputation is "for weirdos and losers.



I looked at HD in order to NOT buy the "new" iPod touch, as I have been pissed off due to lack of camera/ mic and radio. While Zune has the radio, I still decided to buy the iTouch. Enough said.
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post #4 of 232
Quote:
Originally Posted by sheff View Post



I looked at HD in order to NOT buy the "new" iPod touch, as I have been pissed off due to lack of camera/ mic and radio. While Zune has the radio, I still decided to buy the iTouch. Enough said.

What's an "ITouch"?\
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post #5 of 232
I'm a weirdo and a loser, but I don't have a Zune.
post #6 of 232
nice device and looks like it does what it does pretty well

but this is 2009 and a PMP is just an app because even the cheapo hardware is capable of so much more. the Zune is slightly better than a Nano, but not near as good as a Touch

maybe everyone is on Prozac because it's always raining in Seattle, but no SDK for a device like this?
post #7 of 232
I didn't realize the Zune HD AV dock was $90. That's a bit much in my opinion, if it really costs that much extra just to take advantage of the "HD" part of the name.
post #8 of 232
Quote:
Originally Posted by G.O.A.T View Post

What's an "ITouch"?\

Let's not do this, OK? Everyone knows what it is, no reason for the theatrics.
post #9 of 232
Quote:
Originally Posted by G.O.A.T View Post

What's an "ITouch"?\

You see when i get home, iTouch ..... er.... like my ipod and stuff.
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post #10 of 232
[QUOTE=AppleInsider;1483710]Though the new Zune HD portable media player from Microsoft is garnering mostly positive reviews, critics say it's likely too little, too late against Apple's dominant iPod touch.

Sony made slicker and better looking devices in the 80's than the Zune HD. It is so yesterday and the user interface is actually retarded, confused, disjointed and not ready for prime time. Even another year and another billion in "buying" engineers to reinvent the wheel wouldn't yield a worthy iPod Touch competitor. But the real problem with Microsoft is that they have no imagination or innovation and they just don't and never will - get it....

Too little too late and a futile effort that will be obsolete before it upgrades.
post #11 of 232
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

Let's not do this, OK? Everyone knows what it is, no reason for the theatrics.

I didn't, that's why I asked.
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post #12 of 232
Too little, too late. We're moving toward device convergence. This thing's dead in the water. The browser is lousy, too. And apparently, booting up apps takes forever.

Too bad it’s 2009. Someone should have told the designers at Microsoft. They've created a half-decent handheld (only three years after it really mattered) when everyone has come to expect a lot more.

What does the Zune HD offer?

A few applets - weather, a few games, etc. All were thrown and cobbled together by MS, who says it has no plans to open up the platform to developers. “The goal is not to be a fitness device or a restaurant-finding device. It’s to be a great music and video player.’’

Uh . . . actually no. The goal IS to be a fitness device or a restaurant-finding device, along with a great music and video player. Duh!! The goal IS to be a device that does everything and does it reasonably well. Why does MS constantly feel the need to move backward?

You want limited and closed? Look no further than the Zune HD. Makes Apple's rules and regs for the iPod look like open source.

But Apple already makes great music and video players, which also happen to be great pocket-size personal computers. Add in an ocean of iPod accessories, and you’d need a really good reason to buy any other brand. the Zune HD is a great product . . . three years ago.

And as for 720p playback, the iPod Touch is apparently capable of that. Apple can flip the switch on that little feature any time. Apart from the HD radio (US-only) and the OLED screen, there's no real reason (certainly not enough given what Apple brings to the table) to own one of these things, unless you're a die-hard MS fan (not sure why, but I'll go with it) who had to suffer the shame of using an Apple product and the constant reminders of MS' failures outside the OS realm.

Sorry MS, but this baby is stillborn. Again.
post #13 of 232
Another disappointing smear article of the Zune HD. Microsoft must of hit a nerve for them to hit this kind of low here.
post #14 of 232
There was great article by Prince McLean on AI Monday about how the Zune HD's virtues or advantages over the iPod touch really aren't what they seem, if you haven't read it go here

Particularly of interest in how the OLED screen actually is a DISADVANTAGE.

Microsoft has been nothing but dog crap lately. A total reactionary company that has failed to innovate. The last time they did anything innovating, Bill Clinton was still President. The only thing Microsoft has done lately that's worth any salt has been the XBox and on the server side of things. Everything else has been utter crap. Don't start with Windows 7 being good. You know why Windows 7 is a POS? Because it's what Vista was SUPPOSED to be and Vista was what? 3 years late? And now its 2 years later? So basically they released the proper OS 5 years late and people are hailing it as a GOOD product? Why do we reward mediocrity?

The Zune in general is no exception. Microsoft has been too little too late to the party for too long. As the reviews said, it's better than Apple's 2006 offerings, too bad its now 2009.
post #15 of 232
::cough:: Iphone windows mobile ::cough::
post #16 of 232
Quote:
Originally Posted by rmm21 View Post

Another disappointing smear article of the Zune HD. Microsoft must of hit a nerve for them to hit this kind of low here.

Judging by what MS has rolled (stumbled) out of Redmond over the last 10 years (one joke after another), these "smear" articles are entirely appropriate and more often than not, absolutely correct.

I'm sure all the AI articles abut the original Zune were also "smears" right? Now we're seeing another late me-too attempt by MS, in which they are actually moving backward. It's the original Zune situation all over again.
post #17 of 232
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quadra 610 View Post

Judging by what MS has rolled (stumbled) out of Redmond over the last 10 years (one joke after another), these "smear" articles are entirely appropriate and more often than not, absolutely correct.

I'm sure all the AI articles abut the original Zune were also "smears" right? Now we're seeing another late me-too attempt by MS, in which they are actually moving backward. It's the original Zune situation all over again.

It gets old. I like reading the articles around here, but then every once in a while they gripe about something Microsoft is doing. Who cares? I don't come here for MS news, I come here for Apple news lol.

Seriously, if another company made the zune, it wouldn't get much attention around here, and if anything, people like you would admit it's a very good alternative to an ipod touch.

I see the same thing when people wanna talk about politics. Favoritism seems to crowd the brain and push common sense out.
post #18 of 232
Quote:
Originally Posted by rmm21 View Post

Another disappointing smear article of the Zune HD. Microsoft must of hit a nerve for them to hit this kind of low here.

Though, it seems that the reviewers in general actually liked the device. And seeing the "Pro-Apple" talk thrown in these snippets of their reviews, the positive in the reviews has to mean even more.

I'm just glad that there is competition! (Though, I'm still holding out for the Zii Egg)


And for my standard: This is not APPLE news!!
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post #19 of 232
The problem with Microsoft these days (as it seems to me at least) is that they as a company are a control freak. They want to be the best at everything and don't like it when Apple, Google, Sony or even Netscape do something better than them. Having Steve Ballmer in charge doesn't help that much.

As a result, Microsoft has grown too big to be managed properly, with a singular goal and vision. They also seem singularly devoted to chasing their competitors at what their competitors do best, and in doing so have lost focus on what it is Microsoft do best.

Take a look at their operating system. Windows XP came out the same year as the first iteration of OS X. Since then, Windows Vista and Windows 6.1 have been a game of catch up with OS X's ease-of-use and good looks, instead of concentrating on its own business-space strengths where it could excel.

Then Google. Microsoft comes across as insanely jealous of Google's popularity in the internet search field, as well as their space in cloud computing.

And in competing with Nintendo and Sony in the console space, Microsoft has lost billions of dollars in selling machines at below build cost, not to mention the Red Ring of Death issues that plagued many of the early consoles.

Microsoft continue to be obsessed too with getting their own - proprietary - file formats to be common usage. Silverlight came out way to late to compete with Flash. WMV is a hopelessly inefficient format. Their DRMs (which they are really too keen on) are far too restrictive and hated by everyone but the record companies.

And then we come to the Zune. They hate the fact that Apple have made a player that has become so ubiquitous in its field that "iPod" has become the default name for any MP3 player, like Hoover did before it in vacuum cleaners. That want a piece of that because they hate the fact that anyone is better than them at anything.

Microsoft comes across as a company who just want to be loved, but try to do so by doing what everyone else who is loved do already, but not as well.

If Microsoft spent more time playing to their own strengths instead of everyone else's, they'd be better off.
post #20 of 232
Quote:
Favoritism seems to crowd the brain

Totally. I am totally there. I make no bones about my utter hatred for Microsoft. I fell for their crap for fall too long and feel the fool for buying their insecure, out-of-date crap. Fortunately I never bought a Zune but did go down the horrid "Sansa Fuze" road.

When a company continuously produces sub-par dog shit and keeps touting it as the newest thing they deserve to be crowded out of my Mac fanboy, iPod Touch loving, OSX adoring, Macbook worshipping mind.

Oh yeah, and I have earned the right to smear, snark and hate the shit out of them. I'm a switcher.
post #21 of 232
[QUOTE=

Oh yeah, and I have earned the right to smear, snark and hate the shit out of them. I'm a switcher.[/QUOTE]

That's freakin awesome!!!
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post #22 of 232
Quote:
Originally Posted by al_bundy View Post

nice device and looks like it does what it does pretty well

indeed. for the Zune collection it is a vast improvement.

however, compared to the Touch, it's got a long way to go. it is half the storage at this point which is a major deal for many. the Zune Pass, which will work for some -- who don't care about losing their music if they stop paying -- will work, but many still want to own their music to use on computer, several devices etc when and as they want. Also, having software that only works on Windows is huge cause some of the most rabid music lovers are also Mac Lovers and that is basically flipping them the finger.

Also, the HD isn't higher than a Touch and I can put my video from my touch to my tv for only $50, rather than the Zune's $90 dock.

Will there be 3rd apps on the Zune or did I read right that the SDK is only for WinMo phones (another thing they got right, they are spelling out vast details about app rejection from the start, in response to the complaints about Apple. Pity about the fees to submit all releases for approval)

And the list goes on and on.
post #23 of 232
Quote:
Originally Posted by thanx_al View Post

Totally. I am totally there. I make no bones about my utter hatred for Microsoft. I fell for their crap for fall too long and feel the fool for buying their insecure, out-of-date crap. Fortunately I never bought a Zune but did go down the horrid "Sansa Fuze" road.

When a company continuously produces sub-par dog shit and keeps touting it as the newest thing they deserve to be crowded out of my Mac fanboy, iPod Touch loving, OSX adoring, Macbook worshipping mind.

Oh yeah, and I have earned the right to smear, snark and hate the shit out of them. I'm a switcher.

This.

It's like I'm seeing me talking!

You've gotten to the heart of the matter. There's a reason for Apple fanboyism.
post #24 of 232
Quote:
Originally Posted by camroidv27 View Post

And for my standard: This is not APPLE news!!

not directly but it does relate to Apple. Because what Microsoft wins is a potential lose for Apple and some of us aren't just Apple Users, we are also Apple Investors. And we want to know about those things that could end up hurting our stock value.

Also even Users do often care about what the other team is doing because sometimes, not often but sometimes, Apple does follow suit with what works for the competition. A feature that is a total win for the Zune that the Ipod lacks could make it into a refresh. And everyone here just loves knowing what could and will happen months before Apple "decides" to do it. that's the whole reason several of the Mac sites exist.

now perhaps this isn't top news, perhaps it is as they say over at MacRumors a 'page 2'. but it is still very much a topic of interest for some.
post #25 of 232
Quote:
Originally Posted by rmm21 View Post

Another disappointing smear article of the Zune HD. Microsoft must of hit a nerve for them to hit this kind of low here.

Right.

An even-handed "round-up" of the leading reviews across the web (that are mostly positive by the way), is a "smear."

Also, in other news, the USA's new health-care bill is a secret plot to kill babies and Obama is the anti-christ.

post #26 of 232
Quote:
Originally Posted by rmm21 View Post

Another disappointing smear article of the Zune HD. Microsoft must of hit a nerve for them to hit this kind of low here.

Why is it a smear?
I think it is a good review for the device, in fact it sounds quite good and in some ways better than an iPod.
I just think as many have said that it is too little to late.

Ian
post #27 of 232
[QUOTE=breeze;1483731]
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

... Sony made slicker and better looking devices in the 80's than the Zune HD. It is so yesterday and the user interface is actually retarded, confused, disjointed and not ready for prime time. ...

This was my thought as well.

I'm surprised at how positive these reviews are for the most part in that if you sit down and think about it, there is not much here that actually works or looks better than anything we've seen before from other companies.

Apple haters always push that idea that Mac GUIs are "slick" but that once you get past the cool factor there isn't much there. I don't agree at all, but this is a criticism that could easily be applied to the Zune HD. When you first see the screen and the zippy menus it really does look cool, but I don't think there is much under the hood and I don't see how the slick interface (or even the slick looking hardware), is really that functional.

IMO the reviewers are in the "crazy in love" stage right now and are just not seeing the flaws. As mixed as some of the reviews are, I think they are likely to be the high point for the Zune HD and when people sort of "wake up" a bit, down the road, it won't look as even as (mildly) good as it does now.
post #28 of 232
Quote:
Originally Posted by camroidv27 View Post

Though, it seems that the reviewers in general actually liked the device. And seeing the "Pro-Apple" talk thrown in these snippets of their reviews, the positive in the reviews has to mean even more.

I'm just glad that there is competition! (Though, I'm still holding out for the Zii Egg)


And for my standard: This is not APPLE news!!

As Apple is mentioned many times it seems relevant to me.
I visit this site every day and I was interested to read the story.
post #29 of 232
I don't get it....on wininformant.com Paul says the Zune HD destroys the Touch and the iPhone....I'm so confused.
post #30 of 232
You can't play/stop a song, change volume, switch to next/previous song etc. without pulling the device out and actually select it on screen with Zune. This is the real show-stopper for many I think.
post #31 of 232
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quadra 610 View Post

This.

It's like I'm seeing me talking!

You've gotten to the heart of the matter. There's a reason for Apple fanboyism.

Yeah, you know, I HATE corn flakes. Every time I sit down to eat a bowl, I'm disappointed. They are bland, get stuck in my teeth, make my BM's like clay, and to top it off they absorb the milk almost as soon as they get wet! SCREW KELLOGS! I'm going GENERAL MILLS ALL THE WAY.

Wait, Kellogs has got a cereal that a ton of people are liking a lot, and is comparible to my new general mills cereal? I don't even care, I already know it'll taste like garbage because it's kellogs and they make corn flakes.

So long common sense.
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

not directly but it does relate to Apple. Because what Microsoft wins is a potential lose for Apple and some of us aren't just Apple Users, we are also Apple Investors. And we want to know about those things that could end up hurting our stock value.

I REALLY don't think investors have anything to worry about.
post #32 of 232
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cousin Dirk View Post

The problem with Microsoft these days (as it seems to me at least) is that they as a company are a control freak. They want to be the best at everything ...

Control freak yes. But Microsoft has never tried to be the best at anything. They've always strived to do the least possible, create the fewest waves, maintain the status quo while locking people in to their "technologies." Locking people in takes a lot less work than innovating and creating compelling new products.

Microsoft's product strategy has ALWAYS been: 1 - Wait for somebody to do something cool that everybody wants. 2 - Copy it. 3 - Bastardize the standard (created elsewhere) in some way to lock in customers. 4 - Declare a new "standard" (because it's Microsoft's it "must be" a standard). 5 - Release bloated "new releases" every 12 to 18 months to rake in update cash. 6 - Repeat.
post #33 of 232
Quote:
Originally Posted by pondosinatra View Post

I don't get it....on wininformant.com Paul says the Zune HD destroys the Touch and the iPhone....I'm so confused.

Paul says a lot of things. He also said this:

Mac OS users have made a conscious technology choice and are therefore typically better informed than their peers. - Paul Thurrott, December 06, 2004

It seems to depend on the weather.
post #34 of 232
Can someone answer something for me. Since people have trashed the iPhone and iPod Touch for not having background processes, I'm wondering if the ZuneHD has background processes?

And more to the point, why isn't the ZuneHD being trashed for not having Flash and a removable battery?
post #35 of 232
Quote:
Originally Posted by kirkgray View Post

Control freak yes. But Microsoft has never tried to be the best at anything. They've always strived to do the least possible, create the fewest waves, maintain the status quo while locking people in to their "technologies." Locking people in takes a lot less work than innovating and creating compelling new products.

Microsoft's product strategy has ALWAYS been: 1 - Wait for somebody to do something cool that everybody wants. 2 - Copy it. 3 - Bastardize the standard (created elsewhere) in some way to lock in customers. 4 - Declare a new "standard" (because it's Microsoft's it "must be" a standard). 5 - Release bloated "new releases" every 12 to 18 months to rake in update cash. 6 - Repeat.

This.

I put up with MS for five years until I switched back to Mac in early 2006. I see with this latest Zune me-too attempt that not much has changed.
post #36 of 232
Quote:
The New York Times' David Pogue:

"If this thing came out in a parallel universe where the iPod didn’t exist, it would be hailed as a god." The iPod catalog is "superior" to the Zune, while the Zune's reputation is "for weirdos and losers."

In that parallel universe, the Zune wouldn't exist either because it's a copy of (and a reaction to) Apple's iPod.
post #37 of 232
The Zune HD is playing catch up to iPod touch???

Pul-leeze! The Zune HD couldn't catch a snail on Valium!
post #38 of 232
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Chapel View Post

Can someone answer something for me. Since people have trashed the iPhone and iPod Touch for not having background processes, I'm wondering if the ZuneHD has background processes?

And more to the point, why isn't the ZuneHD being trashed for not having Flash and a removable battery?

I think the answer is, when we look at the established leader (iPod) we tend to focus on what's missing, whereas when we look at the challenger (Zune) we focus more on what's there. I think this difference implies that if we did an objective feature comparison of both, Zune has a long ways to go to be a contender.

Just my 2 cents.
post #39 of 232
http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/new...e-roll-ads.ars

????


No. Just, no. You've got to be kidding me . . .

Reactions to the ads may differ, though it is possible to avoid them by keeping games off the Zune HD.

There goes half the neighbourhood . . .
post #40 of 232
Glowing reviews.
Oh well, so much for AppleInsider's article bashing of it the day before it was released.
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