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.