Portable Media Players Guide

Microsoft Zune HD review

Tuning in to the Microsoft Zune HD

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While we have made comparisons between the iPod Touch and the Zune HD throughout the article, we would like to really compare the two most sought after PMP devices head-to-head:-

Comparison Table
  Apple iPod touch Microsoft Zune HD
Display 3.5-inch (480 x 320 pixels) 3.3-inch OLED (480 x 272 pixels)
Memory Capacity 8GB, 32GB & 64GB 16GB & 32GB
Battery Life Music: Up to 30 hours; Video: Up to 6 hours Music: Up to 33 hours; Video: Up to 8.5 hours
App Support Apple App Store (over 100,000 apps) Zune Marketplace (a handful of apps)
Video Support MPEG-4, H.264, MOV WMV, H.264, MPEG-4, support for 720p HD video output with option AV Dock
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR Wi-Fi (support for wireless sync), built-in FM receiver
Software iTunes 9 Zune 4.0
Dimensions & Weight 61.8 x 110 x 8.5mm / 115 grams 52.7 x 102.1 x 8.9mm / 74 grams
Price From S$308 (apple.com.sg) From US$220 (amazon.com)

As you can see clearly from the table above, both media players have their strengths and weaknesses. Our evaluation on this on-going debate between which PMP to purchase is relatively simple:-

  • If you are looking for a straight up portable media player without the frills, but something with excellent video and audio playback, then the Zune HD is for you.
  • If you rather get something that is more of an all-rounded entertainment device, the iPod Touch is right up your alley.

Conclusion

Solely as a portable media player, the Microsoft Zune HD is miles better than most of the PMPs in the market these days. Powered by the NVIDIA Tegra chip, it is capable of handling demanding graphical user interface smoothly and playback 720p HD videos without a sweat. The Tegra chip also handles various other tasks such as driving the beautiful OLED display, sports WiFi capabilities and more that the Zune HD is able to pull all this off in a sleek design that gets our thumbs up. Furthermore, usability and the compactness of device all add to its plus points.

The problem for the Zune HD is not its hardware, but that of the ecosystem where Apple has raised the bar with its successful App Store so high that it transforms the iPod Touch into more than just a portable media player. In that aspect, Microsoft has some serious catching up to bolster the extendibility of its device. It's not the quantity that matter (while it helps), but the quality and relevancy of the apps most suitable for its user base. Microsoft isn't the only one in the tussle to establish its apps ecosystem.

For starters, we really hope this petite little device is available worldwide. Mass availability will spur developers who will in turn create apps and grow the ecosystem. It's really something that can snowball well if Microsoft does their groundwork properly.

If we've stirred your interest, but reside outside of the USA, head down to our Portable Media Players forum to find out more on how to go about ordering and shipping your Zune HD.