Behold, the new Zune HD

After much anticipation, the new multimedia player from Microsoft named the Zune HD has arrived. The Zune HD is the successor to the original Zune with a sleeker body line, beautiful new user-interface, new features and more. So the question on everybody’s mind is how does this Zune HD stack up against the all mighty iPod Touch? Well let’s found out

Hardware

The Zune HD is constructed with aluminum, rubberized plastic and glass in a candy bar shaped body which gives the device a solid expensive feel. Some notable hardware features on the Zune HD includes its widescreen 3.3-inch multi-touch OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screen. It does not display content in HD on its own OLED screen, but the new OLED screen technology does allow for a sharper, vivid and brighter viewing experience compared to an ordinary LCD screen.

Software

The new user-interface (UI) is beautiful, smooth and refreshing. Though sometimes it can be a little confusing, for the most part the UI is simple and easy to navigate with simple finger swipes and taps. The Zune has support for music, videos and podcasts.

The Zune had always had a feature called “Social”, which allows uesers to share music with other Zunes, though the catch is the recipient can only playback the song 3 times.

The Zune also has HD Radio, which is basically regular radio but with cd-quality sound. The Zune HD can also “tag” songs you like on the radio so users can download them later on its online Marketplace store.

Microsoft has finally added a web browser to the Zune so it can view webpages with a Wi-fi hotspot. The Zune requires its own media organizing application in order to sync content onto the Zune, although the software is ironically at the moment Windows- only and is not compatible with Mac OS X.

Features

What can the Zune HD do that makes it so unique?

  • Access to HD radio, which is basically cd-quality radio
  • HD video out, view 720p video on your HDTV ($90 accessory required)
  • Wi-Fi, share songs (with a catch), browse the web
  • Music Subscription service, unlimited music downloads with monthly $15 fee and 10 songs from the downloads are yours to keep forever.

The Verdict

Overall the Zune HD is a great improvement from the original Zune and packs various neat unique features. But, as for the whole Microsoft verses Apple and Zune versus iPod, the Zune still is not the “iPod killer”.

The main reason behind this is the absence of a multi-billion dollar application store, the App Store – which allows the iPod Touch to even make VOIP phone calls! It’s no competition.

A solid platform needs time to grow and maybe within time the Zune HD will catch on. The Zune does bring new great features to the table like music sharing but like I said before the Zune has yet to gain enough base to make that feature usable. Only time will tell if the Zune platform will be able to take on the king of portable music but, either way, it’s a great alternative to the iPod Touch.

The Zune HD is available now in the United States in 16GB and 32GB configurations for $219USD and $289USD respectively. Unfortunately at the moment Microsoft is keeping the Zune HD a US exclusive and has no plans on releasing the new Zune hardware internationally.

We currently have Zunes in Canada but as inventory of old models deplete, this is the end of Zune in Canada as we know it. Which goes back to my point, the key is to offer this to more people in order to gain a wider base, but making it US exclusive limits its opportunity to expand and grow its Zune platform.

Does Microsoft have to quit testing the water or is this the same supply and demand trick Nintendo has done with their Wii?

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