Zune HD Review

Zune HD Review

Microsoft’s new Zune HD is slowly becoming a solid competitor to the widely popular iPod Touch and while already in it’s 2nd generation, the Zune HD is still playing catch-up.

zune hd

The weight and dimension of the Zune HD is just right. Out of the box, the Zune HD is pretty slim and light (40% lighter than the iPod Touch) with a glass front panel coupled with a single slender button at the bottom.

At the back is an aluminum plate, in brushed-metal finish, tucked with exposed screws. The construction is pretty solid and the design is more skewed to edge corners rather than curvy ones.


The navigation is really neat and fluid but needs some time to get used to. Instead of icons, the menu is composed of enlarged texts and some visualization. Playback controls appear with a single tap but you can play forward and back with a (horizontal) flick of a finger. Instead of a timeline, fast-forward control is activated with a sustained tap. Likewise, the volume can be controlled by tapping or flicking the screen up or down.


It’s got something going on with a number of pretty nice features the iPod Touch doesn’t have:

OLED Screen + HD Video-Out: Being able to output 720p resolution to your HDTV is a neat advantage. And OLEDs have better color range and viewing angle. True enough, the display doesn’t bend to a bluish haze when viewed at an angle (near the 180-degree angle).

HD Radio: Despite the very few HD radio stations here in the Philippines, the Zune’s HD Radio can pick up a wide range of FM stations at SD. Apple says they don’t want to put an FM radio tuner on the iPod Touch because they’re positioning it as a gaming device.

Wireless Sync: USB cable missing? The Zune can transfer and sync media files from your laptop or PC over WiFi. (If only it can also charge the battery wirelessly.)

zune hd


Did I say the capacitive screen is multi-touch too — so the pinch, flick and other multi-gesture functions are there. Very handy when navigating the built-in web browser. The touchscreen is very responsive and snappy that it’s indistinguishable with the iPod Touch.

For those curious how the Zune HD fares against the iPod Touch in terms of specs, see comparative chart below:

zune ipod

As for sound quality, the Zune HD has a nice volume range while the bass is more solid and sounded fuller. The earphones that came with it is decent and though it’s not impressive, I thought it was better than iPod earphones. When used with an in-ear earphones (SoundMagic PL11), the audio quality (especially the bass) is even more prominent. What I appreciated with the basic Zune earphones is the length of the cord (about 1.5 meters).

Video playback is smooth and crisp. Jumping from video to video or forwarding clips is snappy with no noticeable lags. The display brightness needs to be put in the “high” setting in order to appreciate the video experience. I didn’t have the AV dock so I wasn’t able to test how the 720p output fares when hooked up to an HDTV.

The Zune HD is not without its shortcomings. There are a number of things I thought that needed improvements:

External Speakers: As a PMP, I thought the Zune HD needs to have some external speakers. It’s not a big deal though but I expect Microsoft to add this feature in the upcoming models.

Improved Browser Functions: While the multi-touch gesture really made the browsing experience with the Zune HD very comfortable, the lack of basic features gave the impression that the browser is crippled. No bookmark management, no tabbed browsing, not even browser options. The browser cannot even render videos from YouTube.com (no Flash plugin).

App Marketplace: There were less than 10 apps that I was able to download from the Zune Marketplace — this is the biggest disappointment so far. I was expecting a bit more — not even apps for Twitter or Facebook.

What’s most interesting with the Zune HD is that it was priced by Microsoft very competitively. At about Php10,500 (see here) for the 16GB model, it’s very near the price of a 16GB iPod Nano and cheaper than the 8GB iPod Touch. Now there’s your value for money.

Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech. You Can follow him on Twitter @abeolandres.

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39 Responses

  1. thanks abe!

    Zune HD vs. iPod Touch 3G (CNET Review)


  2. BrianB says:

    Ha ha, Chris Brown, my favorite tune of the week as per my viewing of the latest The Office episode.

    Zune Hd really looks thin.

  3. cris says:

    Nice review yuga!

    Does it support .avi movie format?


  4. yuga says:

    @cris – yup and thanks!

  5. Pedro says:

    thanks for the info sir…

    where can I buy it here in the Phil?..
    is it here yet?

  6. I say this is a pretty decent release from Microsoft and would really give Apple a run for its money given the price and capacity.

    And it indeed looks very slim and sleek!

  7. yuga says:

    @Pedro -there’s one selling in TPC for Php13.5k.

  8. Pedro says:

    thanks sir…

  9. john says:

    Hi Yuga. You said it can play .avi — does this mean it can play divx files? Just want to clarify.


  10. Vance says:

    @abe: real battery life comparison? which one beats which.. especially with wifi and app usage..

  11. Jhay says:

    By this it seems that the Zune just needs some kick-ass marketing to really come toe-to-toe with the iPod and challenge its dominance.

  12. @kuya jhay
    actually, MS just needs to open up the platform and give the devs the proper tools. :D That and support for all other countries (points to Zune pass)

  13. I hope you don’t mind, I borrowed your comparison chart for my post.. thanks..


  14. Rom says:

    someone is selling the Zune HD 16GB for PHP12,500 here: http://www.zunephilippines.com/2009/09/zune-hd-seller-in-philippines.html

    Someone might be interested. The seller also sells Zune Originals (custom engraving and multiple color options)

  15. francis says:

    The trend nowadays for a gadget like this is a support for downloadable apps. That is a great advantage even if it has the best hardware. I feel like i bought a “new hardware” just by adding a new software on my iPhone and iPod. There are tons of free apps (from entertainment to education) in the iTunes store. I’m pretty sure the others are trying to catch up.

    peace! :-)

  16. Calvin says:

    nice review abe. yung wireless syncing and sharing, does it mean pwede sya maging storage device din? no need for desktop apps just to transfer files to and from your PC?

    without the apps yet it’s just a PMP with browsing capabilities which is a bit pricey compared to other PMP’s.

    still it’s a good alternative for those who are anti-Apple.

  17. yuga says:

    @vance – could not make a definitive comparison since my iPod touch is an old one.

    @calvin – the synching only works with the Zune software and not File Manager

    @teknisyan – no prob!

  18. Vance says:

    @abe thanks.. sayang.

    One thing that iPod touch has an advantage right now is the Bluetooth tech.. for some odd reason, having one makes the iPod a multiplayer gaming device.

    If Zune release some games and use wifi tech to do a peer to peer gaming that would definitely put them close to iPod touch and iPhone as a gaming device.

  19. Rob says:

    Microsoft just needs to ‘open’ up their Apps marketplace.
    People are writing apps for Zune HD (check sites like http://www.zhdapps.com/) but Microsoft has to get on-board with these home-grown developers to get their apps into the marketplace.
    There are people out there installing these unofficial apps but it is a bit of a challenge right now to install them:
    1. Install XNA 3.1 game studio.
    2. Install MS C# (free version)
    3. Install Zune HD extensions.
    Then it is relatively smooth, you just associate your Zune HD in the XNA software, and deploy these apps to it.
    Last issue is, for all games NOT obtained through the official marketplace, your Zune HD restarts upon exiting any of these games or apps.
    Come on MS, it’s time.
    We want youtube access and more apps and games.
    Otherwise, my Zune HD is the best device i’ve ever owned. Love it.

  20. jessica says:

    hi, where can we buy this? thanks

  21. agwe23 says:

    i just got my zuneHD. I got to say that I love it! :)

    now to look for accessories. I ordered an invisible shield from zagg. now i want an armband

  22. agwe23 says:

    Has anyone been able to buy videos from the marketplace?

    I tried buying “The Guild” a free web series but I get an error saying my msn id is not associated with my zune. i don’t even have an msn account

  23. Cribby says:

    You need to create an account in the zune software but before that you need to set your PC regional settings to US in able for you to register. Since this is only applied in US you cannot buy anything in the marketplace except for the free once. Please check the site for further instruction in setting your US regiional setting.

  24. Dazed says:

    help me decide which is better.. 1 Gadget or 2..

    1.Iphone3G 16GB
    Likes: All in 1 Gadget, Wide Screen than Zune, wifi
    Dislikes: 2MP Camera without Lights/Flash, you can’t use one-hand in text messaging or even without looking, “takaw magnanakaw”

    2.ZuneHD 16GB + Sony Ericsson k810i
    Likes: HQ Videos and Pictures, style, wifi
    Dislikes: no built-in speakers, small screen than iPhone, no bluetooth

    Likes: 3.2MP Cybershot Camera with Lights and Xenon flash, Normal text messaging
    Dislikes: small screen

    i don’t care if it is 3g or not bsta may wifi and sa price ndi nagkakalayo yan sa US..:)
    Need some advice please help me po..


  25. Kite says:

    Will FM Transmitters work on the Zune HD?

  26. greco_11 says:

    is there a store which retails the zune hd in the Philippines??? if so how much??? thanks to whoever replies to this message…:D

  27. Paolo says:

    Zune HD and Ipod Touch are two different devices with various capabilities. If you’re looking for a solid music player with excellent video experience and tough battery duration Zune HD will do the job while the Ipod Touch offers apps. and games. Zune HD is a bang for your buck! X)

  28. mickey says:

    anyone tried timing the battery time when playing videos and music (and apps)? just want to know because i tried mine for playing videos and it only lasted around 4.5 hours (but it says 8.5). haay. haven’t tried timing it yet in playing music but for apps, it really ate a lot of power!

  29. Cribby says:

    I actually watched a movie today lasted for almost 2hours and two TV episodes lasted for almost 48mins. it consumes about half of the power of my ZHD. My ZHD is set to medium brightness and volume is around 19-20. I only experience more power consumption in playing games which lasted almost an hour.

  30. lui says:

    I have one but the problem is sira sya nung binili sa U.S. problem is wla na ung warranty nya na 1yr ndi xa napagawa… I think its the battery. I charges it for more than 3 hours pero ayaw nya tl;aga magpen. Meron ba service center d2 ng zune o pwede mgpagawa d2sa pinas? tnks.

  31. mickey says:

    @lui – ang alam ko walang service center dito sa Pinas kasi sa US and Canada pa lang sya officially binebenta though alam ko may call center sila dito. have you tried pressing the power button for 15 secs? minsan kasi nangyari sa Zune ko nagoff sya tas akala ko lang bat empty at kahit anong ulit na pindot ko ng mga buttons ayaw talagang mag-on kahit pindutin ko pa ng mga around 10 secs yung power button kaya yun akala ko sira na yung zune ko. chinarge ko na rin sya nun for several hours pero ayaw pa rin talaga. pero tinry ko once pinindot ko yung power button for 15-20 secs or more at yun nagopen sya. parang nagreset to factory setting ata yun akin nun kaya kailangan kong pindutin ng ganun katagal. sana makatulong.

  32. edmar says:

    hi..l have my own 30g zone kaso d lang gumagana un wireless,,para mka pasa ng music,,need help po..pls ,,,tnx

  33. alexander salvio says:

    meron po b nagbebenta ng zune usb cord,if meron po pwede pashift sa tarlac.email me.tnx

  34. rawr says:

    Trading your ZuneHD to PSPGO (Almost Bnew) mail me..

    • Martin says:

      I’m ready for the summer and for a good time with the pocdast.But however it runs out, it just doesn’t matter.Saw this movie at the cinema and it blew me away.I was expecting to have fun from knowing Bill Murray from SNL, but I was about Rudy’s age and it was like having a big brother presence in my life for that summer.I went back to see again a few times.(movies and popcorn were cheaper then. And phones had rotary dials and cords and stayed in the effin’ house Eh, it just doesn’t matter *breathes deeply*)

  35. Mark says:

    NO CAMERA??? No Nothing?

  36. philip willard says:

    panu bah maibalik yung marketplace na word sa homescreen ng zune hd ko?

  37. pewe68 says:

    i accidentally deleted the marketplace menu on the homescreen or because i updated to firmware 4.5 thats why it is deleted bcoz some say that marketplace are is not supported outside US?how to fix this?can anyone help me?

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