Having had several mp3 players (an iPod Video 30GB, a Nano, an iPod Touch and a Red Zune) for sometime now, I find myself using the Zune more often than the others. Let me share with you some things about the Microsoft Zune and why I think it’s a good replacement for the venerable Apple iPod.
The Zune 8GB has the same form factor as the first generation iPod Nano (I think this form factor is best fit for the Nano too). Being the first personal mp3 player to come out of Microsoft, the Zune 8GB was designed to directly compete with the largest selling model of iPods.
At 1.4 ounces (47 grams), it weighs a little less than any iPod Nano generation. The main difference in the navigation is that while we’re all familiar with the click-wheel, the Zune has a touch pad which allows navigation by sliding in both horizontal or vertical directions as well as click-selection (you can turn the slide pad feature off if you want via the settings).
There are two compelling features the Zune has that the Classic iPods do not have — WiFi (for wireless synchronization) and an FM radio tuner. You can synchronize the music collection in your PC/laptop with your Zune via WiFi so you don’t need to bring the cable connectors all the time except when charging. The Social feature also allows you to share (their term is “squirt”) music to anyone who has a Zune, wirelessly up to 30 meters. Having an FM tuner is also a plus, a feature I wondered why Steve Jobs would not add in the iPods. You need to turn off WiFi when not in use so it doesn’t drain the Zune’s batteries.
The Zune Desktop Media player is simple yet does the job well. Since it allowed me to register and create a Zune account (unlike iTunes which is still not available in the Philippines), I was able to login and pull down all the official album art covers of my music into the player. iTunes’ cover flow might be superior but it really looks dull to look at when all you see are gray default album covers. Sound quality is at par (almost indistinguishable) with the iPod Nano, with volume scale from 1 to 20. The good thing about the music management is that you just tell the Zune Desktop player which drive folder to use and anything you drop into that folder gets detected and synchronized into your Zune player on your next synch.
At 320 x 240 pixels, the screen size is just enough though I wish they’d use up all that extra space. Music and video playback is smooth and crisp.
For $20 less than the price of an 8GB iPod Nano ($199), the Zune 8GB ($179.99) gets you the best bang for your buck, plus a couple more features.