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Zune HD 16 GB Video MP3 Player (Black)

Zune HD 16 GB Video MP3 Player (Black)

Manufacturer: Microsoft Zune Players
List Price: $199.99
Street Price: $167.54
Amazon.com: Unknown

All of us have a need to take our content on the road for one reason or another. There are plenty of devices that can do that for you. Anything from an iPod or a laptop to a portable media center. You can choose the ultra portability of an iPod but you'll give up video quality. If you want HD quality you can use a laptop or portable media center but those are a bit bigger and more difficult to drag around with you. Today we are taking a look at the Zune HD. With the Zune you can have ultra portability and HD video quality in one nice looking package.

Features

  • Display: 3.3-inch OLED color touch screen display, 16:9 aspect ratio, 480 x 272 pixel resolution
  • Audio Output: Analog, Optical digital Toslink S/PDIF (requires additional dock)
  • Video Output: HDMI (requires additional dock) or Composite (requires additional dock)
  • Radio: FM and HD radio
  • Supported File Types: MP3, WMA, MP4, M4A, M4B, JPG, WMV, DVR-MS4 (no AVI support)
  • Capacity: 32 GB
  • Wireless Connectivity: 802.11b/g compatible (for syncing and internet browsing)
  • Size: 52.7 mm x 102.1 mm x 8.9 mm (w x h x d)
  • Weight: 2.6 ounces (74 grams)
  • Battery Life: Music, up to 33 hours (wireless off); video, up to 8.5 hours.

Setup

The Zune HD needs the Zune software installed on a PC to sync media, install apps, and purchase music and videos from the Zune Marketplace. Currently this software is not available for Apple products. Connecting the Zune HD AV dock is simple. Just connect the included HDMI cable to the TV or Receiver, plug in the power cable, and place the Zune in the dock. If your TV or receiver does not support HDMI you can use composite cables and optical audio. But to get 720p, the HDMI cable must be used. The Zune HD supports FM and FM HD Radio. The dock has a wired antenna to increase reception of FM / HD Radio stations.
Once you select the desired video output in the Zune settings you’re ready to go. You can sit back on the couch and use the included remote to watch HD videos, listen to HD radio, listen to your own music collection, or look at photos.

Use

As a portable media player the Zune HD is great. Music added to it’s library is also accompanied by photos, bios of the artist, and recommendations of similar artists for sale at the Zune Marketplace. The interface is simple and stylish, but the 3.3 inch display steals the show. The OLED screen is very bright, colorful, and sharp but also shows true blacks for great contrast. Looking at the screen from an angle renders no shadows or color dullness. The only knock against the screen is the size. While only .2 inches shorter than the iPod on the diagonal, the ZuneHD is narrower than the iPod which yielded a noticeably smaller viewing screen.

What sets the Zune HD apart from other portable media players it the ability to output High Definition via the Zune HD AV dock. In the dock, the interface is very similar to its normal operation, with the exception of no internet browsing. The HD video displayed by the small portable device is simply gorgeous without any stutters or lags. However, the 5.1 digital is no supported, it’s only Digital Prologic.

The Zune Marketplace

First off, the Zune Marketplace does not use “real money” you must use Microsoft points to purchase anything. Currently, the average price for one hundred points is currently $1.25. Here’s a quick rundown of the points versus price purchases for standard items in the Zune Marketplace.

One song
79 points = $0.99

Entire albums
1000 points = $12.50
800 points = $10

TV show
160 points = $2 - Standard Definition
240 points = $3 – High Definition

Movies rentals (rent for 14 days or 24 hours after first play)
240 points = $3 - Standard Definition
360 points = $4.50 – High Definition

Overall the store has lots of audio content, and podcast support. They have a lot of TV shows for download, however the only major network that seams to be supporting it is NBC, there is very little from CBS, FOX, and none from ABC. As far as movies go, they have less than 500 movies available for rental. But TV and movie support is a new feature for the Zune Marketplace, and we’re sure it will keep growing (if they want to be successful). The Zune marketplace also has a few free Zune applications for download, but nowhere near the amount of the iTunes store. An hour of HD content is about 2 GB, so downloading a full movie takes some time. However, you can view it on your PC while it finishes downloading.

Other Features

The Zune software supports the Xbox 360, and to our surprise all content in the Zune library (this includes videos, podcasts, music, and pictures) are streamable from the PC to an Xbox 360. HD videos purchased from the Zune Marketplace are also streamed in HD with full 5.1 surround sound (a feature the Zune HD does not have).

The web browser is nice. It seams to be a step or two above the browser included in Windows Mobile devices. However, it does not support Flash.

Conclusion

The Zune HD is a powerful portable media device. It has a beautiful OLED screen, small form factor, smooth touch screen menus, and wonderful 720p output to a TV. However, for Microsoft to steal some iPod users, more apps and video content need to be available in the Zune Marketplace. The Zune HD has solid hardware that is almost as sexy as the iPod. What would make this device perfect for a home theater would be Hulu and Netfilx support. Microsoft has also stated that they will release games for the Zune HD, since Xbox Live and the Zune Marketplace already seam to be linked the possibility of it being a good portable gaming device are great. The Zune HD is a solid device. With future updates it may take a run at the iPod's dominance in the market.

Posted by The HT Guys, April 8, 2010 8:59 AM

About The HT Guys

The HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.

Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.

ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.

Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.