Got a free Microsoft Zune as part of a promotion related to my website, so I thought I’d post some thoughts.
Overall I have to say it’s a big disappointment. First of all, you can’t use it as an external drive, so you can’t store abitrary data on it. There is a hacky workaround circulating on the net, but it’s very kludgy. This limitation alone means I’d never recommend anyone buy one.
The second problem is the PC software (to sync your media with the Zune). The interface is truly awful. I found myself having to consult the help to work out how to do the most basic things. And the help isn’t much good either. Explaining this interface to a non-technical relative doesn’t bear thinking about. So think twice before buying one as a gift for someone.
I haven’t bothered signing up for the online marketplace stuff, so I can’t comment on that. But I read bad things about it, so I’m not really tempted to try.
As far the hardware goes, the screen is excellent – big and bright and very usable for looking at photos or even video. The controls are reasonably intuitive. The earphones are mediocre – not close to the quality of my 30 quid Sennheiser PX100 headphones. With decent headphones, the sound quality from the Zune seems fine – similar to my PC.
The software on the Zune itself is ok, but not great – the built-in themes are ugly (subjective, obviously), skipping between songs is slow, and the equalizer only has presets (no direct control over bass and treble). Oddly there seems to be hardly any noticable difference between the preset values – Rock has slightly more bass than Folk, for example, but it’s only noticeable at very high volumes.
Add in the fact that there’s no AC charger (I’m expected to take my laptop with me when travelling, obviously) and the whole Zune experience leaves a lot to be desired. I really can’t see myself using it. Probably end up on ebay. Along with quite a few others, I imagine.
BTW I have no experience with any other similar devices (e.g. IPod), so maybe they all suffer from similar problems. I doubt it, though.