I feel I should preface this blog by saying that I am, in no way, an “expert” on technological matters. I consider myself a mid-level techie, meaning I can walk noobs through software installation and even troubleshooting minor problems, but I leave coding and frankensteining entire machines to the pros. Google solves a lot of problems for me.
That being said…
I purchased my little 4-Gig Zune about a year ago, thanks to a deal Wal-Mart still runs. There’s a fifty dollar difference (in the Zune’s favor) between the 4-Gig Zune and 4-Gig iPod. So it’s still a good idea for the economically-minded consumer.
Also, the whole DRM thing really rubbed me the wrong way (why do I have to keep authorizing computers to play music I purchased?!) so I went for the alternative.
Since then, I put a lot of wear and tear on the armband accessory, and sadly, it’s no longer with us. I haven’t had any major problems with the device itself; save for the last software update causing the player to freeze occasionally, it’s been fine. Watching videos can be a bit of a challenge, but hey, it’s a small screen, and you get what you pay for.
Noobs might have a hard time getting videos to play on the device. I recommend Prism while it’s free; you can convert downloaded videos to play on your Zune without worrying about some obtrusive ‘trial version’ crap taking up most of your screen.
Hardware isn’t much without software to back it up, and this, in my opinion, is where Zune takes a brutal fall down the stairs and snaps every body part along the way.
Before I tear into this thing, I have to point out the pluses; Zune does provide a cheaper, DRM-free alternative to purchasing songs (.79 cents, compared to the .99 cents from itunes, and you can play them anywhere). The social aspect is a great idea, and I think it’s cool to tap into other people’s tastes. My favorite feature is how you’re awarded ‘badges’ for listening to a song or album x amount of times. It’s a good way to publicly display what kind of music you’re really into.
It’s podcasts can be somewhat touch-and-go; generally, I’ve had no problems, but I went through a rough spot about four months back where I couldn’t get anything to download. I nearly got kicked off of twitter for that ceaselessly ranting about that.
Why, oh why, does Zune not allow you to create video playlists?! This is a readily accessible feature in Windows Media Player (which is also created by Microsoft, but I’ll get to that momentarily) that members of the Zune boards have been crying out for vainly for over two years now. If it hasn’t happened now, chances are it’s not going too.
The software also tends to tie up a lot of processor; I no longer run the program from my laptop, as it wasn’t uncommon for it to be hogging up to seventy percent of my cpu’s processing ability. If I had Outlook 2007 and my (addin heavy) Firefox running, Zune would often be the straw that broke the camel’s back. You want to run the software, you should have some horsepower to back it up.
I know quite a few people who were/are familiar with Windows Media Player and purchased their zune expecting the device to be compatible. Why not; Microsoft makes both the hardware and the software. It only makes sense the two should work together, right?
There are still a ton of people in this world who’re not technically savvy; why in the name of Optimus Prime would you make them download and then learn an entirely new piece of software when you have one readily available?
I know coders who will intelligently counter this point, but I steadfastly maintain that the Zune would’ve fared much better, had it been an add-in to the existing Windows Media, instead of making it a standalone.
An article run by Businessweek prompted me to write this blog. You can cite your own reasons; poor marketing (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Zune commercial), bad design, poor software, whatever, one indisputable fact remains—the Zune is failing.
So I close by saying; you get what you pay for. The Zune is a cheaper investment, but with so many ways to get around DRM these days, and the ease of using iTunes, you’re better off with the iPod.
Pony up the extra cash and get yourself a Nano.