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This is a very good choice for a very good value, top end video / MP3 player. Can I also say, once you update the Zune with the official microsoft update, the software of the Zune is updated so it is exatley the same as the new one, along with the PC software.
My decision After I broke my Creative Zen Vision: M I was faced with a choice of getting an iPod or a Zune. In the end I settled for a Zune and I'll tell you why.
How it looks The looks of the Zune may not be its strong point, however I like its simple design. There are some interesting colours, I've got a brown sort of colour which goes green at the edges in light. It has almost a rubbery feel to it, its does not have a glossy / shiny surface like the ipod. This is a good point as it is difficult to scratch, and easier to keep clean - so it still looks like it is in mint condition.
Size and Weight The Zune is about the thickness of a standard mobile phone (Update: a bit biger than a DVD box), it is rather large I must admit. It is the major downfall of the device, Iam sure it could have been made a bit smaller. This can be annoying, and the case supplied with the Zune is too small, you have to squeeze it on tightly. It can still fit in your pocket easily, so is still very portable. The Zune is also fairly light, I was pleasently suprised.
Features The Zune has Wi-Fi, so you can connect with your laptop or PC wirelessly if you use a wireless network in your house, or if you have a wireless enabled computer. Also if you meet other people with Zunes it is possible to try some of their music tracks - you get to keep the track for 3 plays I think which is a good feature. Some people complain that it isn't enough, but they've got to protect copyright of the music (which I dont care for really!). The Zune has a radio built in which is useful if you like listening to radio. Also your podcasts are stored in a special podcast section, with audio and video podcasts spererated into two sub-categories. The battery life is very good, I have been very pleased with it, even now (02 m June 2009) my Zune will play music for will over 12 hours, including some video watching. A USB charger / data cable us supplied, but I think you an buy mains chargers as well.
Functionality The menus on the Zune are very easy to navigate. You turn it on with the choice of "Music", "Video", "Pictures" etc, which are then split into sub sections. You cycle between album and artist etc my going left or right, once it a main catregory, you can then choose by going up or down and selecting a track or artist. When you select an artist, all of their albums are displayed with small pictures of the album next to the name, and while viewing tracks in an album the user can cycle left and right to switch album with ease. The way you navigate looks like a touch pad in the picture, however it isn't. You click up and down by pushing in the direction you want on the circle, with a button in the middle to make your selection. I would have personally preferred a touch pad, as it can feel a bit plasticy and cheap at times.
Sound Here we get onto the strongest point of the Zune. The sound quality is amazing. I have used the supplied headphones which are average (just like the headphones with every MP3 player), but if you spend just £5 / £10 or so on some decent headphones you get to hear the full quality sound. Its really good with soft tracks and heavier tracks, I mainly listen to Rock / Metal and I am very pleased with what sound is produced. Comparing it to a Creative, this is the same or probably better. Comparing it to an iPod, the sound seems better, noticable after comparing the same music tracks, however I havent tested an iPod thoroughly.
The Screen and Video The Zune has a very good quality, vibrant screen (Update: There are better screens around now). However I think it should have a brightness level which is one higher. There are three choices, lower to save battery, higher for a brighter screen - its bright enough but one more setting higher would have been good to have. I don't watch many videos on the Zune, however if I travelled a lot with nohting to do I would definatley make use of it. I have looked at videos on this and tested them - they look great, there are some supplied with the Zune and they look very clear and sharp. My friends were also happy with the quality of the videos. I have played a few video podcasts too which played well. I am unsure of file compatibility, but I think it may only be WMV and MP4, however I am unsure of this.
Software The computer software is easy to use, and finding albums and artists is fairly easy. The interface looks good, and uses album art to display which albums you have. However if you are in the UK like me, you can't actually download anything from the marketplace which is very annoying. I think its because it hasn't been officially released here (Update: It still isn't available, however is being released soon). You can still set podcasts to auto download and auto sync which is useful, just get the podcast feed, and copy and paste it when it asks for the link. So apart from the marketplace the software is good - it would just be amazing if it worked in the UK though. I say this as you can like your Xbox gamertag or make an account. After that you can buy tracks with microsoft points, or get an unlimited subscription to download as many tracks as you want for $15 per month with a Zune Pass (in the USA).
Conclusion I would definatley reccomend purchasing a Zune. I paid £95 for mine new, from a seller on ebay - yes it was an official Microsoft Zune I bought. So if you are looking to spend around £100 you can get a lot for you money with this Zune. If you are willing to spend more perhaps you could look into buying the newer Zune, but only if you prefer the way it looks, or need the space as the software and hardware are mostly the same.
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