I’m willing to bet that 93% of the people reading this have an iPod, some variation, for their primary MP3 player. 5.5% probably have some cheaper alternative that they bought because it was all they could afford, but likely wish they had an iPod. Another 1% of people may use their phone for an MP3 player. .3% of you might still use some archaic portable player. .2% might not even listen to music at all.
But what about that remaining .1%? These people might use the Zune or Zune HD. I’m sure a good amount of the people reading this are thinking about buying a Zune HD because they refuse to support Apple but want a solid music player, and just need a few opinions to make that final decision for them. Allow me to help.
The Zune line of music players from Microsoft has gotten a bad rep from the majority of the moving music listening world, perhaps for unjust reasons. The original Zune failed because of ridiculously high price tags, and the fact that it was purely heinous in physical build. Sure, the price tag may have been justified by the wealth of features the device housed within its massive shell, but the majority of casual music listeners didn’t want those features. They wanted something that could organize and play music in a manner that was easy to navigate and understand. Compared to Apple’s iPod, the Zune just couldn’t do that.
The Zune HD is a complete revamp of everything the original Zune was, only much prettier. For starters the thing is super sleek, very portable, and appealing in every aesthetic aspect. It is designed so gorgeously that by comparison it makes the entire Apple line of gadgets look like the fat kid that smelled really bad and sat in the back of your second grade classroom. I was that kid.
Even the OS and user interface got completely rebuilt, making doing something as simple as browsing through your musical library with the beautiful touch screen total eye candy. Shifting menus, titles, text, artwork and more give a level of interaction and finesse to browsing through menus that the iPod touch only wishes he could sleep with. The touch interface is so fun that I found myself selecting different artists passively just to watch everything unfold.
Throw in an app store, web browser, gaming, WiFi, and a plethora of other capabilities and you would think you would have yourself a winning piece of tech that kicks Apple’s gadgets in the nuts. However, that is wrong. The biggest thing that keeps the Zune HD from toppling any build of the iPod is that gorgeous interface I was telling you about. While very fun and pleasing, it’s also much more convoluted than the Apple alternative. Weird, an Apple product being more user-friendly than a Microsoft product? Sounds familiar…
Oh wait, that’s how it has always been. After reading my statement, you may be ready to blow off this review as being written by an Apple fanboy. Wrong. I’m writing this review on a Windows 7-equipped PC, not a Mac. I despise iPhones, and use an Android-powered HTC Hero. I am not, by any means, an Apple fanboy. Though while many people prefer the interface of a PC over the Mac, when speaking in terms of a music player that goes in your pocket and that you interact with on the go, ease of use is necessary. You want something simple, straightforward, and to the point. Not something that requires concentration and any attention beyond a glance to navigate, especially considering more and more people use MP3 players in their car. Navigating a Zune HD while driving is reckless. My old 80 gig iPod? It’s a breeze.
Also, the Zune HD is, comparable to the iPod Touch, a bit overpriced. And when you compare it to any non-touch model of an iPod, it’s effing ridiculous. Over $200 for a 16 gigabyte device is a waste of money, no matter how pretty the hardware may actually be. The iPod Touch isn’t any better, at around $199 for the 8 gig size. If you ask me, they are both unnecessary.
I guess that it all boils down to what you do with your MP3 player. I don’t play games on my music player, I’ve got a Nintendo DSi for that. I don’t use my MP3 player for web browsing. I’ve got a laptop computer and HTC Hero for that. That’s why I’m beyond satisfied with my non touch iPod. Interface is simple, organization is fantastic, it has ten times what the Zune HD stores for half the price and I can use it while driving without worrying about dying. Also, iTunes is so much easier to use than the Zune Marketplace that it is ridiculous.
As far as I’m concerned, ease of use and smart organization of music is much more important than an overload of functionality that you are never going to use anyway. And while the Zune HD is certainly a great machine, I’m going to stick with my iPod.
Score: 8.5/10 (Great, but stick with your iPod)