Which is Better: WMV or MP4 Format For the Zune?

The 2nd Generation Zunes can sync (without transcoding) WMV and MP4 video files. So which is the best format to use? Well, both have their advantages and disadvantages. Here’s my brief list of pros and cons:

WMV Format

  • Microsoft recommends using WMV format for the Zune
  • You can adjust the Meta data tags to include information such as text description, episode sorting, categorization, etc.
  • Video quality and file size compression may not be as good as the MP4 H.264 format

MP4 Format

  • Lots of iPod video converters are available to create MP4 formatted files
  • Video quality and file size compression may be better than than the WMV format
  • Has no ability to store Meta data tags in the file

Personally, I prefer the WMV file format because it supports the meta data tags. Using these tags, I can categorize videos as TV shows, movies, or music videos and have the Zune group them on the main display. I can also group multiple episodes of a particular TV show which makes it easier to find them. In contrast, using the MP4 format doesn’t have meta data tags so all MP4 movies are synced to the Zune using the generic “All Videos” category and thus you have a giant list of videos that you need to scroll through. Also, using the WMV format allows for a summary text description associated with each of my video files that is displayed on the Zune.

So far as video quality, the WMV formatted videos look great to me, so I’m not too concerned with the higher quality of the MP4 format (which I’ve really never tested). I suppose if you watch your videos on a TV monitor using your Zune you’d probably want the highest quality for video playback.

The exact specifications for the video and audio codecs can be found on the Zune.net site.

If you read the postings of different Zune forums, you’ll see a divided camp supporting the MP4 and WMV formats. Whichever becomes your favorite, both will work quite well on the Zune.

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5 thoughts on “Which is Better: WMV or MP4 Format For the Zune?

  1. Roberto says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but I do not see a way to add/edit tags for videos in the Zune software and the only view available is the thumbnail view.
    I can do that in WMP, but I’m not sure it will have any effect on the way Zune categorizes video.

    Care to elaborate on what you mean by: “Using these tags, I can categorize videos as TV shows, movies, or music videos and have the Zune group them on the main display”?

    Thank you!

  2. Roberto says:

    No worries, found the answer at http://zunetips.wordpress.com/video-tagging/

    Thanks for the great blog. Arguably the best Zune blog out there.

    Ciao,
    -RR

  3. zunetips says:

    Thanks for the compliment. My goal was to have a blog that offers concise help in a straightforward manner. I had to dig through numerous forum postings to get the right information on video conversions, tagging, etc. so I wanted to help others by putting all the “good” info in one spot.

  4. onlydarksets says:

    You can set metadata in mp4 video files, and the Zune software and player can read them.

    http://onlydarksets.wordpress.com/2008/09/19/convert-sage-recordings-to-iphone/

    See the part about AtomicParsley.

    That said, you cannot set the WM_MediaClassPrimaryID and WM_MediaClassSecondaryID values programatically, although you can set them through the Zune software (but it stores them locally, not in the file).

  5. mados123 says:

    You can now edit the .mp4 metadata within the Zune software by right clicking on the video and hitting “Edit.” Great for having BadaBoom software convert DVDs into mp4s (with an on-the-fly decrypter like DVD43 or AnyDVD) and in a fraction of the time by using its GPU parallel processing ability (with a NVIDIA CUDA capable card).

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