First impressions of Zune HD

Discussion in 'iPod touch' started by chris975d, Sep 15, 2009.

  1. chris975d macrumors 68000

    chris975d

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2008
    Location:
    Georgia, USA
    #1
    Being kinda disappointed in the recent iPod Touch update, and just being a gadget freak in general, I picked up the Zune HD 32Gb yesterday at my local Wal-Mart, of all places (all Wal-Marts in my area actually had them on the shelves yesterday). But, being that Zune.net has been down for the updates until this morning, I couldn't activate/sync it until this morning. That being said, I downloaded the newest Zune software and device firmware early this morning, and have been trying to put it through it's paces so far.
    My initial impressions are:

    As far as looks/build quality, it's actually a good looking device. Seems solidly built. And something I didn't realize until I unboxed it....it's TINY! It's not a great deal bigger than my brand new 5th gen iPod Nano that I picked up last week. I didn't expect it to be this small! So, as far as pocketability goes, this thing won't be a problem to carry in a front pocket.

    Screen quality: I'd say average. As per my description above, the device is a lot tinier than I expected, so therefore the screen is also smaller than I expected (don't know why, but I was expecting a device along the lines of the Touch in size). This, combined with the lower resolution, just makes it look not as clear/sharp as the screen on my 3GS. Smaller text on the Zune is harder to read than on the iPhone, to me at least. Good color and brightness though.

    Music playback quality. This is an area that I've actually always thought the Zune series shines in, and to me, the HD is no exception. I think the output quality is better (with lossless files) than the iPhone 3GS, 5th gen Nano, and the 2nd gen Touch i once had. You probably won't notice a discernible difference with the pack-in earbuds, but jump to some higher end gear like Sennheiser IE8's or Westone Customs (I have both of these, so I can attest to this), and the better sound quality shows.

    Internet browsing: Here is the area of my biggest disappointment in the device. The browsing, for lack of a better word, stinks. The browser, which seems to be based off of Mobile Internet Explorer, is so far below mobile Safari that I was really let down here. The browser defaults to a sites "mobile" page, if present, and there seems to be no way to change this. It's just like browsing on a standard Windows mobile device. And, at least to me, the graphics quality in the browser seems a lot "lower" than the rest of the Zune OS. Also, the rendering speed of the HD's browser on wifi is very slow, compared to my iPhone 3GS rendering the same pages on the same wifi network. Also, input on the web browser is very difficult. There seems to be no spelling correction built into it, so when entering a webpage, you have to be extra careful to select the right keys on the tiny on screen keyboard (VERY tiny), so, input is a lot slower than on say an iPhone/Touch. Maybe I'm just spoiled here by how fast I can type on the iPhone, with the spell correcting as a safety net. Also, unless I'm completely brain dead, I can't figure out how to watch videos on YouTube at all. It tells you that the "file you requested cannot be viewed". It automatically defaults you to the m.youtube.com mobile site, but won't let you view the videos. It shows you the option to "download the YouTube application", which redirects you to a google download page, but the app never actually downloads. I don't think this app it's trying to give you is actually for the Zune HD, but the site detects the Windows Mobile browser, and is trying to feed you the app for that, which might not be compatible with the HD.

    Apps: Right now, there's not a lot of apps on the Zune Marketplace(as to be expected). All I saw were games, a weather app, and a calculator app. I downloaded the Calculator app, and, I hope this isn't indicative of the performance of all apps on the device. Once I've gone into "Apps" on the device, and clicked the Calculator app, it takes precisely 10 seconds just for the app to open (timed this multiple times). It shows the little Zune sync animation while you're waiting for the app to load. This is unacceptable to me in the current form. Maybe this is something that can be tweaked in software updates, but it's painful right now.

    "Zune OS" software (on device software): This is an area of "OK" to me. Not great, but not bad either. It's fairly intuitive, and the touch interface has worked great so far, but there are a few quirks to me. The biggest annoyance I've run into is that in some areas of the OS, there is no "back" function to get back to the previous menu when you are drilling down in a menu, but in other places, there is. It's really inconsistent. If there's not a back button, you have to hit the "Home" button to go all the way back to the main menu. That's irritating. Again, this is probably something that can be fixed in a software update.

    Zune software (on computer software used to sync the device): I don't like it. To me, it's a bit too "busy". It seems like Microsoft's team tried really hard to make this flashy and "pretty", but it just comes across to me as they "tried too hard to do too much". It has a lot of useful features that I like, but the overall presentation just kills it for me. This could be due to the fact that I've used iTunes so long that I'm just very used to it, and I might grow to like the Zune software over time, but it tries to be so "pretty" that it just slows my computer down, moreso than I've ever seen the ever increasingly bloated iTunes do. But then, Microsoft has always been excellent in bloating the heck out of useful software. Also, syncing the device itself is painfully slow. Slower than I've ever seen any iPod sync. This one thing drove me crazy while waiting for it to sync just 10Gb of music on the device.

    "HD" Radio: meh...this is ok. It sounds no different than the FM radio on my Nano. Not saying that radio on a device like this isn't good, I actually love it on here and the new Nano, but this "HD" radio business doesn't seem to mean much. The Nano actually has better reception and sound, at least just east of metro Atlanta where I'm at.

    I have not yet had a chance to test on device video playback quality, but I don't watch a lot of videos on handheld devices anyway. I've never really had the desire to watch a good movie on a < 3 inch device anyway. I'm going to try to do this later today, just for kicks, to see how they look on the Zune.

    So far, my overall impression of the Zune HD is... "not so bad". It's an EXCELLENT music player, for the audiophiles out there (but then again, a lot audiophiles lean more toward the Zune than the iPod for sound quality..take a look at head-fi.org for that). As a "mobile internet device", I think the iPod Touch is very well safe from competition in that area, at least competition from the Zune HD. No one that compares the two would think the HD trumps the Touch /iPhone in mobile internet capability. At least not in the current browser the HD carries. It's no more useful than the standard WAP browser on any cell phone. Applications ability? So far, this obviously goes to the iPhone OS platform, but Microsoft has been known to put up a good fight, if they throw resources at it, and Apple were to get lazy (I think of how the xBox 360 overtook Sony, once Sony kind of rested on their laurels of the original xBox vs. PS2 victory). But as it stands right now, on device app performance seems like it might kill the Zune before it gets started, unless that lagginess I experienced in just the Calc app gets fixed. I plan on downloading some of the games later today to see if it's like that with all current apps, or if the Calc app is just insanely slow. Overall, I'd say the Zune HD is a "nice try" by Microsoft, but, like a lot of things they seem to do, they just don't "get it". Hardware specs wise, and software features wise, the Zune is great. It's all pretty and flashy and potentially can do all kinds of great things, but Microsoft just cannot seem to get that synergy that Apple can with their devices, and just make it all "work" smoothly, efficiently, and intuitively. Yes, iTunes has gotten more bloated and slower every year, but in my opinion, when working with media players (it's own iPods), it still kicks the crap out of everything out there as far as ease of use. Yes, it's locked down and proprietary as hell, but that's the only way you can make something that almost every person, no matter their technical/computer knowledge, can use.
     
  2. MaxPower49 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2008
  3. bostonte macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2007
    #3
    How is the marketplace experience on the Zune itself?

    I never could get used to downloading directly on the old Zune. Search was awful and I couldn't find things I knew were available, it was hard to enter text, and awfully slow.

    I always gave up and just went back to the PC -- which for me meant booting a virtual machine.

    With the larger touchscreen I hope they've improved.

    I know I'm the odd ball on online forums, but I actually like a subscription music offering. Make it easy to browse and download right on the player and you've got me.

    Any chance you "authorize" the Zune separately from the PC now? I never understood why the Zune had wifi access to the marketplace, but I still had to sync to my PC if it had been too long and my songs expired. Why couldn't it just verify rights over the wifi?
     
  4. michael.lauden macrumors 68020

    michael.lauden

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2008
    #4
    yep. i still hope there is a store that lets you actually use it, like the apple store letting you use... everything

    i'd definitely like to try it out
     
  5. ucfgrad93 macrumors P6

    ucfgrad93

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2007
    Location:
    Colorado
  6. Jodiuh macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    #6
    chris is DEAD on in his assessment of the mobile browser. But it gets worse. Here's an image of [H]ardforum.com after double tapping and attempting to pull focus to the txt via a column wide page. Trouble is, the column still things I'm on a PC. It doesn't shrink down.

    [​IMG]

    It's not readable, I assure you that. Now let's try to zoom in so that it IS readable.

    [​IMG]

    Well that sucks. I sure don't want to be panning my way around the internet. Let's check out Anandtech.com.

    [​IMG]

    Ope! Almost...nah, not even close. Here's what it should look like:

    [​IMG]

    Everything's there and it's all readable.

    And give me back my normal sites. The fight I had to put up just to read an article's comments in Engadget proved far too frustrating and I eventually gave up. But then why would I even want a full site like Gizmodo if it's going to take 1 minute + to load? Broken javascript not working, locking and freezing when loading large sites (Tom's Hardware), inability to tilt accelerometer when keyboard's out. It is a bare bones and minimalistic browser meant for a bullet point.

    As awesome as this thing sounds and it does sound fantastic. And as incredible as those wide angles and inky blacks may be...I truly did buy this device thinking the browser would be at least better than a WinMo phone or a BB. It's not. In some cases it's worse. Oh, it's such a disappointment in an otherwise mostly stellar package.

    I hope I'm wrong. I hope someone comes in here and owns the **** out of me yapping up and down how stupid I am for staying up all night w/ this little gem and shows me where I went wrong.

    Jod
     
  7. cenetti macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2008
    #7
    Biased Reviews bah!

    Internet browser is working perfectly... I don't get slow loading times at all / check your internet connection maybe ? Amazingly fast pinch & zoom... way faster than 3G and touch...

    Music player is gorgeous. Amazing... you have to play with it to know what I am talking about...

    Love the Zune software.... very cool visuals .... everything seems perfect to me....

    Apps... well this is the day uno... enough said!

    Overall I give it a 9/10 ...... beautiful PMP... best one this year..

    You need to have zune pass to have the best experience with this device.
    All the cool artist bios . photos ... cool album arts...on that amazingly bright screen...

    Love the screen.... blacks are blacks.... and I mean REAL blacks... not washed out Iphone/touch blacks....
    [​IMG]
     
  8. Shoesy macrumors 6502a

    Shoesy

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2007
    Location:
    Colchester, UK.
    #8
    Hd

    I thought that the real point of this device was going to be linking it up to your HDTV a la AppleTV? Any word on how the actual HD part of this pans out?
    Cheers
    p.s. cenetti- that black does look amazing!
     
  9. Jodiuh macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    #9
    cenetti:
    How am I biased? I have no apple hardware in my home at all. I've owned a 1st Gen Nano, but the sound quality was terrible. In the notes about the browser above, I made it quite clear what a superior A/V machine it is.

    Are you saying that your web browser does not look anything like mine? How many seconds does it take you to load the full page of gizmodo.com?

    Believe me, if the browser could be fixed, I would probably keep the player.
     
  10. cenetti macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2008
    #10
    It's very cool indeed. I'll rent a movie tonight and see how those black show there.

    It took exactly 2 secs to load the mobile gizmodo. After I clicked on "click here to view the classic Gizmodo" link at the top.... it took exactly 14 secs to load THE WHOLE PAGE...

    I don't know what else do you want... It's looks perfectly exceptable to me.
     
  11. aristobrat macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2005
    #11
    Does yours take 10 seconds to start the Calculator app? How about the other apps?
     
  12. chris975d thread starter macrumors 68000

    chris975d

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2008
    Location:
    Georgia, USA
    #12
    Biased? I'm not biased at all. I WANT this device to do well, to put more pressure on Apple to not just become complacent and not continue to innovate. I have no problem with Microsoft, if they make the better device, I'll use it. That being said, I don't think that in this form, the HD is going to make inroads into Apple's Touch market. For someone who's never owned a touch capable media device, they might consider the HD. If you've ever used a Touch/iPhone, I don't think it's really a question as to which is overall "better", it you're looking for a true MULTI-media INTERNET device. That being said, I have hope for the little fella, and will more than likely keep it and give it a chance. Heck, it's only $289, I spent more than that in stupid cases for my 3GS in the past month! Maybe with future updates it can become something better, like the original iPhone did. I honestly hated it until iPhone OS 2.0 came out. But I still just don't think Microsoft can master the end-user "experience" that Apple can. And no, before some jacka** says that's just the "Apple kool-aid", it's not. Apple DOES have that down to an almost exact science. If not, people wouldn't be buying their products at record levels each year. "Hype" will only get you so far...if Apple was all "hype" and no substance, people wouldn't keep buying their stuff. Not in the numbers they do. And not be repeat buyers also. But I do think Apple is capable of getting complacent, and that's why I want the HD to do well. But it's got to get better, quickly. Or it's dead in the water as a true competitor to the Touch Apple devices.

    Also, I tried the gizmodo full site. After 47 seconds, the browser on the HD gave up, and stopped. It had only rendered the banner and main picture. It's not the network, because even a Blackberry Bold can EVENTUALLY render that site on here.
     
  13. Jodiuh macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    #13
    cenetti:
    I gave up after 40 seconds and watching the bar cross the 1/2 way mark. I'm actually typing this up on a netbook that uses the same wifi router and only takes 5 seconds to load up, so who knows. So really, 14 seconds? I guess that's good to hear.

    Although the other question I have for you are the columns. When viewing forums or even certain sites, the txt can only be read when zoomed far in. This makes it so you're doing a whole lot of panning. I don't suppose your columns re size like that of the Slashdot photo on all sites?

    EDIT: Thank you for the validation chris. I knew something was up. Hopefully we'll get a bevy of reviews from Giz and Eng, maybe even anand, they don't hold punches. As much as I love the a/v of the device, I don't have the budget to toss $300 into cases! And it looks like my Costco just got some 32GB touchs in for $279. :D
     
  14. cenetti macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2008
    #14
    Yes it does... not that I care at this point but I am sure they'll fix those with updates.... I remeber when I first got my iphone in 2007... that thing was a brick... with no functionality other than phone calls...and a crappy browser...
    We came a long way since then... As I said before this is day one... so far so good..imo

    I took that picture between iphone and touch on purpose... and I am typing this on a $4K MacPro ... I am an Apple fan. But guess what, I have Windows 7 on my bootcamp partition... And I am loving it!

    If I see value there...I buy it. I loved the zune pass, software and I loved the player too....

    I see huge potential here (though I am perfectly happy with the way it is now). very cool PMP...:D

    here another screenshot... ;)
    [​IMG]
     
  15. mexxx macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2009
    #15
    does the zune come with 1gbg of ram as tstated in the ifixit teardown?
     
  16. aristobrat macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2005
    #16
    I was noticing that in addition to the blacks on your iPhone/touch looking washed out, the colors on your icons also look washed out.

    This only happens on mine when the overall system brightness is cranked way up. Mines set for about 60% (a little to the right of the middle on the slider). How bright do you have yours cranked up?
     
  17. chris975d thread starter macrumors 68000

    chris975d

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2008
    Location:
    Georgia, USA
    #17
    That is my only hang up with keeping it. I could return it and get a more overall polished, but less capable spec-wise, 3rd gen 32gb Touch. I think the new processor in the Touch is the best of the current bunch, along with the new GPU. It's just that I see something in this HD that I like, and that's with me owning almost every Apple product currently available (except a Mac Pro). I just wish it was a bit more polished in it's current form. I kinda like its size, I like the looks of it, but just mainly can't stand the browser right now. It's just not as good as Safari on an Apple touch device.
     
  18. cenetti macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2008
    #18
    I don't know about the touch (battery dead right now) but iphone is/was right at 50%...
     
  19. fernande-mac macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2009
    Location:
    Midwest
    #19
    I like this thread. Very useful information about the Zune HD.

    Keep the reviews coming and your personal experiences.

    The web browser load speed is interesting. Is there a network settings page? Maybe there are some configuration caveats for some Wi-Fi devices.
     
  20. chris975d thread starter macrumors 68000

    chris975d

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2008
    Location:
    Georgia, USA
    #20
    I believe 1 Gigabit RAM = 128Mb. It's not 1 Gb of RAM. So, in that case, it's less than the iPhone 3GS.
     
  21. chris975d thread starter macrumors 68000

    chris975d

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2008
    Location:
    Georgia, USA
    #21
    Just to update on the app loading times... I originally posted that it was the Calculator app that was taking almost exactly 10 seconds to load. I've downloaded the Weather app and a couple of the games now, and they ALL take the exact same amount of time to load. So this doesn't seem to be an app specific issue, which seems to me that it could be fixed/enhanced in later updates to the devices firmware.
     
  22. Jodiuh macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    #22
    Here are the settings under internet:

    DELETE HISTORY
    COOKIES: ENABLED
    SCRIPT: ENABLED

    That's it. And yes, it's in caps. :D

    In short, sounds great, fantastic even, looks wonderful, presents itself well, and feels good in the hand. But it gets very, very warm when browsing, does so slowly, and "unenjoyably." A very good PMP, just missing some functionality. For now I'm going to have to go w/ an iPod touch. But I will miss the fast and punchy sound...a lot.

    Oh, and I really liked the new Zune software. It's quite slick and feels almost "WebOS fresh."
     
  23. Scarpad macrumors 68000

    Scarpad

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2005
    Location:
    Ma
    #23
    One thing I have seen mentioned I'm wondering about is all that artwork and Download pictures downoaded to the player has to take up space, I'm wondering how much ? Since you're only playing with 32gb to begin with.
     
  24. michael.lauden macrumors 68020

    michael.lauden

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2008
    #24
    only playing with 32GB? since when is 32GB not massive
     
  25. buxtone17 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2009
    #25
    "HD" Radio doesn't mean much. The "HD" originally stood for "hybrid digital". Now it stands for... nothing. The only difference between the Zune's HD Radio and the Nano's FM is that an HD Radio signal is digital and an FM signal is analog.

    Good review though. Glad to have some feedback on the Zune.
     

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