Back in the old days when all I had was my old Toshiba e310 Pocket PC PDA device, I use to read news on a few mobile sites via my home WiFi Internet connection while lying in bed at night. My Toshiba had a 320×240 resolution screen and a crummy IE web browser (compared to today’s standards), but it did its job in allowing me to read some news before going to bed. Of course, the virtual keyboard required pecking with my tiny stylus, so its usefulness was a bit limited.
Since getting my Zune 80 a few years ago I’ve been using it to watch recorded TV shows late at night before going to sleep. Although my Zune 80 does have WiFi, it didn’t have a web browser… and then along came my new Zune HD!
This evening I decided to check out the built-in web browser a bit and see how well it would work for my needs. I don’t anticipate using it much, but you never know. Here are some good things I discovered while using the browser:
- I really like the minimalistic interface for the browser. Very clean and effective.
- The swipe-up virtual keyboard seemed at first tiny and sparse, but as I began using it I also began to like it more and more. It’s simple, but seemed to work fine with my medium-sized fingers.
- The keyboard is available in portrait or landscape mode, however, only if you bring it up after you switch the screen mode. So if you are in portrait mode and have the keyboard displayed and try to switch to landscape mode, the keyboard won’t rotate over. You need to lower the keyboard first before rotating the screen, then you can bring up the keyboard again.
- All the web pages seem to load pretty quickly with my home WiFi connection.
- Page scrolling is also very fast, with very little delay when scrolling with my finger. Zooming in and out also worked very well.
- If you have WiFi initially turned off (which I normally do to save battery power) and you active the browser, the Zune will ask you if you want to turn on the WiFi. This saves you from having to manually go to the settings screen and turn on the WiFi (although, now I have to go there to turn it off when I’m done!).
As a test, I tried to access the handful of web sites which I frequently visit for my daily activities. Below are some of those sites and my comments:
- Comcast.net – I checked this site to see if I can use the web mail page to view my email. It all seemed to work just fine, and allowed me to read my mail in a web browser.
- Zunetips.wordpress.com – Of course, I need to be able to check my blog site! The Zunetips page came up just fine and looked great. But, don’t expect me to post articles using the virtual keyboard!
- Logmein.com – I often use this service to access my home PC while traveling for business, so I thought I’d give it a try. When I try to login to my home machine from the browser, I got the message, “Windows Pocket PC 2003 or newer device with ARM processor is required“. So, obviously logmein won’t work with my Zune HD. 😦
- BECU.org – I bank at the Boeing Credit Union, so it was nice to see that I could log into my account and check my balances.
- iGoogle.com – This Google news site has a mobile version that displays the information in a condensed format. Works really well, in my opinion. I noticed that with this mobile page (and some others) the font size when in landscape mode is larger than in portrait mode.
- seattletimes.com – This page also has a mobile version that automatically loads and looks good.
So as I checked out these various pages, I decided to bookmark most of them as a “Favorite” in the Zune browser. One thing that I found disappointing, was that I couldn’t rename the bookmark titles (I had to use whatever default title was originally associated with the page). It would be nice if you could edit these bookmarks from the desktop Zune software, or create them in Internet Explorer on your Desktop PC for syncing with your Zune.
So, I think the Zune HD web browser could come in handy while I’m in bed at night and I want to catch up on some news. Too bad you can’t play Adobe Flash videos, otherwise I could be watching YouTube videos of the unboxing of the Zune HD… 🙂