Microsoft/Mac Monday

With all of the frenzy surrounding Apple’s iPod, Microsoft’s Zune seems to have been forgotten about even though it’s a quality product. While a majority of people out there have at least heard of the iPod, there are probably still many who don’t really know the Zune exists. And those that have heard of it may not be aware of some of the great features that it offers. Today we’ll be taking a look at the Zune and what it is, but we’ll also be taking a look at Zune Social, Zune Pass, and Zune Marketplace.

We would like to mention before we get started that we haven’t been able to physically use a Zune ourselves, so this won’t be a review, rather it will simply be facts about everything Zune. If you own a Zune, feel free to leave your personal opinions about it…

About the Zune…

zune.pngMicrosoft first launched the Zune back in November of 2006. About a year after its launch, the second generation of Zune’s were announced to include what they call the Zune 4, the Zune 8, and the Zune 80. They retail for $129.99, $179.99, and $249.99 respectively.

There are a couple of really great features that the Zune offers which other media players, like the iPod don’t. Probably the biggest is the wireless syncing and share which is available to Zune users. Zune users are able to share files on their device with their friends who have Zunes. Additionally, they can sync their devices wirelessly with a Windows PC. Another feature which the Zune has the iPods don’t is an FM Tuner. Not everybody is about downloading all of their music, there are still some people who enjoy listening to the radio which is why it’s nice the Zune includes this feature.

Out of all of its features, there are only a few which people might have complaints with. First on the list is that the Zune offers 20 hours of battery time for music and 4 hours of video. It’s not that this is terrible, but other devices out there do offer better. Another minor complaint is that the software that you need is compatible only with PC’s running Windows. Unfortunately it’s not compatible with Mac computers. We’ve come across several other minor complaints that mainly had to do with the software, but overall, people are happy with it.

To get a better idea of how people feel about the device, I decided to go to Amazon to check out the most helpful favorable review, and the most helpful critical review. This is what I found:

The most helpful favorable review (part of it):

I’ve owned 5 different kinds of iPods, as well as the original Zune, and I must say, that this product is by far the best of the group. I spent the day trying to return my iPod Classic (80GB) so that I could get my hands on one of these—and I had to look just about everywhere in town to find one.

Is this better than the iPod Classic? Undoubtedly.

The most helpful critical review:

In a nutshell, the person who wrote this review felt the Hardware is improved but the software is lagging behind.

I got this new Zune 80GB. The player looks and feels very nice. The material looks very quality and futuristic.

The sound quality of the player is neither better nor worse than the first generation. It was generally good with the first player. But actually, they have removed the EQ option altogether in the second generation. So, you are left with the standard sound that comes with it. But, I found the sound quality very good, way better than other very popular mp3 players, which was the primary reason for me to go with Zune. Its screen is large and very clear. Picture and video quality are very good.

If there was one feature that it appears as though users love the most, it’s the Wi-Fi sharing which leads us to the social aspect of the device…

Zune Social

Microsoft appears to want Zune owners to get social with Zune Social. What it does is that it tracks the music that a user is playing. Everybody has a few favorite songs, and Zune Social will be able to tell you what they are. The main thing with the service is that you can explore and share music with people that you add as friends. The more friends you have that own a Zune, the more useful Zune Social will be to you.

When you first go to the site, you quickly get an idea of what they’re all about because they display the most played albums, the most played songs, and the most played artists.

Once Zune users sign-up, they’ll be able to see what their friends are listening to and then send them recommendations of songs they should get.

zune social.png

Zune Pass

One of the things I hear Zune owners raving the most about is Zune Pass because for a reasonable monthly price, you get unlimited music. The only restriction is that you can only copy the music on up to three computers, and three Zune devices, and those songs can’t be burned to a CD. All it costs is $14.99 per month.

Zune Marketplace

Think of the Zune Marketplace as Microsoft’s version of iTunes. It’s where you go to get your songs, albums, videos, podcasts, and TV shows. They break everything down into categories so it’s easy to find. They’ve got about three million songs available for download which pales in comparison to the more than 6 million songs iTunes offers.

Wrapping it up…

Before jumping on the iPod bandwagon, you may want to consider your other options out there including Microsoft’s Zune. Without trying it for ourselves, we can’t tell you from personal experience what it’s like to use one, but from reading about the features and even reading personal reviews from other users, it’s a great device worth considering.