Zune HD brings new experiences

Microsoft’s new touch screen portable media player is the new kid on the block of the ever popular touch screen based PMPs.  But what makes the Zune HD stand out and what are its shortcomings?  Check out this thorough startBlue review.

The first thing one notices is the design.  Extremely industrial, it is available in either Black 16GB or Platinum 32GB which consists of a brushed metal back and a glass OLED touch screen.  The second thing that catches your eye is the clarity, detail, and colour of the OLED screen.  Unlike many of its competitors, the Zune HD innovates with the newest in screen technology.  Unlike traditional displays that have one light bulb that is filtered by a liquid crystal display, the Zune HD contains thousands of light emitting diodes or tiny light bulbs.  The result is a stunning display.

Beneath the outer hardware exists some impressive internals. It is the first PMP to have HD Radio. HD Radio allows you to not only listen to FM radio but also HD stations, giving you a larger selection and higher clarity.  Bringing it all together is the 8 core NVIDIA Tegra Processor which allows for handling of HD Video, a slick graphical UI and games all together with powerful battery savings.  Each core has a unique purpose so by selectively turning them on and off, the Zune increases your ability to save energy.

But what is hardware without software?  The Zune also excels on this front.  In an extremely intuitive method it brings your music to life with info and photos about your artists integrated into your experience.  It also allows you to further explore music thru suggestions and with the optional Zune Pass you can stream and download unlimited music for only $14.99 a month while choosing your favourite 10 tracks to keep forever.

In addition the Zune HD goes beyond media with the addition of a browser and limited apps and games with a promise of more to come.  The browser is a barebones browser that renders pages well but offers no ‘tabs’ like other mobile browsers.  So it is one web site at a time.  In addition I found the browser could have been quicker.  The same can be said for app and game launches which launch very similar to what you have on a game console such as the Xbox 360 or PlayStation Portable with the Zune logo loading before the app.  This slows the process down, as well as adverts displayed before the current free games.   In addition at launch you only have 9 games and apps.  Microsoft has been promised more including Facebook, Twitter, and Project Gotham Racing Ferrari Edition later this year.  I think the arrival of PGR, an Xbox title, will be the one to watch in regards to the performance of Tegra.

So how does it stack up to its closest competitor, the iPod Touch?  As a portable media player it wins hand down.  The innovation in integrating you with your media makes it arguably the best PMP that exists on the market.  In addition despite its smaller battery, the energy efficient and OLED and battery savings of Tegra allow for longer battery life. However, depending on your current needs you may desire the large amount of apps and slightly better browser of the iPod touch.  But if what you want is a great media experience that immerses you into your music then look no further than the Zune HD.

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