Ok, I’ve owned my new Zune for about 36 hours now, so it’s time for first impressions. Before getting my Zune 80 I researched lots of web sites and forums so I would be familiar with the Zune’s capabilities and features, how the button worked, etc. I also knew from specs the size and weight of the device. Although I visited several electronic stores in my area, none had any Zunes on display for me to test out. So, the first time I handled one was when I opened mine up as a Christmas present yesterday.
Size and Weight
First, I’d have to say it is heavier that I expected. I guess I’m use to devices with plastic cases that are lighter, with FlashROM storage. Since the Zune 80 has an aluminum casing, glass cover and 80 GB hard drive, I can understand that it is heavier than other similar FlashROM-based media players. It not so heavy that I’m unhappy with it, but rather I’m afraid that if I drop it it will impact the ground with substantial force (F=ma physics stuff).
I was also worried that my Zune would have the manufacturing defects that have been mentioned in numerous forum postings (i.e., finger print and hair under the glass screen cover, noisy hard drive clicking, crooked/rotated center control pad, pushed in back/play buttons, etc.), so the first thing I did was a complete visual inspection. The only thing I found as a “defect” so far was the crooked (or rotated) center control pad. It was rotated about a half of a degree to the right, and was barely noticeable (I probably would not have noticed it if I didn’t read those postings). It’s not a big deal for me, as my Zune still functions well and it still looks fine. Of course, I could probably find similar nit-pick “defects” on any of the electronic devices that I currently own. But, I would have to say that Microsoft should correct this manufacturing issue for future devices. Also, the back button does sit a bit low (being almost flush with the top face of my Zune), but maybe it was designed that way? I’ll have to keep an eye on it over the next few months to make sure it doesn’t get permanently depressed from normal use.
Screen Clarity and Resolution
Another area of concern was the screen clarity and resolution. My old Dell Axim x50v Pocket PC had a 640×480 hi-res VGA screen which I used for watching AVI movies, so going to a 320×240 res screen would certainly be noticeable. In addition, I came across several forum postings where people were complaining about the pixelation of the Zune screen images, so that brought on some anxiety. I’m happy to report that the Zune screen looks great! It’s very clear, and I can’t see any such pixelation. I can only imagine that watching videos that have a low video bit rate might display some noticeable pixelation when there is lots of high-speed motion. In any case, I give the Zune a 10 for having such a nice screen for viewing videos.
With my Dell Axim I was using some cheap ear buds that I got from a previous airplane flight (freebie). Since I didn’t listen to music (just videos), it really wasn’t such a big deal. My Zune 80 came with “Premium” ear buds which appear to be of much higher quality than my freebie airline buds. The buds actually fit inside your ear canal blocking out exterior noise. The sound from my Zune was fantastic, and I can’t image why I was using those old crummy throw-away ear buds! My Zune 80 was an expensive investment, and it’s nice to know that Microsoft provided a good set of ear buds for enjoyable listening.
I just love the UI, I think because it’s so non-microsoft. It actually looks like something Apple might put together– a refreshing change from the standard “Windows” stuff we’ve seen for years. The flick-with-your-finger control pad is really nice, and the simplicity of the controls makes the Zune easy to use. The Zune Software on the Desktop PC also has a refreshing look and is easy to use. I can very easily find and purchase songs through this interface, and subscribing to podcasts is a snap. No complicated setup (at least for me). Everything was very easy to configure and use from the start (even my Wireless Sync setup was automatic, which seems to be a problem for some users).
What, No Slip Cover?
So what’s the deal with that? My Zune 80 didn’t come with a simple, basic slip cover to protect the screen. Sure, Microsoft will save some money by not shipping such a cover (where most users would replace with a better one), but until I find one to buy I’m stuck with a naked, exposed Zune. In the meantime, I’m using one of my old Pocket PC slip covers until I find a proper cover or case.
What I don’t Like
Most of what I’ve written appear to be glowing comments from a Microsoft Zune Fanboy (which I don’t think I am), but as my wife says, “it is what it is”. Just to balance things out, I’ll throw out a few things I didn’t like:
- The absence of a slip cover or basic case. I’m forced to be extra careful with my Zune until I find and purchase a cover.
- Inability to organize my video files into folders. The video files synced on my Zune are presented as one giant list on the main display, making it a bit cumbersome to sort through. Music files can be grouped by Album, Artist, and in playlists, but not video files.
- When I first synced video files to my Zune, the Zune Software would “transcode” them, which is essentially reconvert them to a Zune-suitable format. This process was taking several hours per video (even for video files that are in WMV format). The only mention of this conversion was a half sentence under the “Status” screen in the Zune Software on my PC. It would be nice to have a more descriptive status telling what the syncing is doing and why it’s having to transcode a particular file.
I’m sure I’ll have more objective comments once the honeymoon is officially over, but until then I’ll be working to better utilize and enjoy my Zune.