This is the second in a series of infrequent articles that feature technology reviews for the budget traveler
From the time my daughter asked about getting a first generation IPOD for her birthday many eons ago, I have been a devoted fan of the idea of selecting portable music of my own choosing. Sure, there were plenty of cassette players and walkmans that tried to turn my head along the way, but nothing surpassed the absolutely delicious prospect of downloading my own digital tracks to groove to while on the road. Ummmm….yes, I said GROOVE!
While I can respect the innovative genius of the original Ipod, I must admit that I have a preference for the Zune. As most travelers can attest, long hauls on planes, trains or automobiles can turn even the meekest shrinking violet into a prime candidate for the ‘no fly’ list. Variety is crucial when you are in a virtual holding pattern for hours on end. The Zune allows you to not only download your favorite music, but if you need a change of pace, you can listen to the built in FM radio for your favorite disc jockey or sports/talk show.
Zune has a larger display screen which makes watching videos a bit easier (3.2″ v. Apple’s 2.5″) though some may not like the fact that the aspect ratio hasn’t changed accordingly; it hasn’t proven to be a problem for me. One of the coolest features is that you can share music between players. If your friend owns a zune, you can transmit songs back and forth….wirelessly. You can also sync the songs that you’ve downloaded on your computer to your unit wirelessly or via USB cable if you prefer to sync and charge your unit simultaneously. Zune has a subscription service called the Zune pass that allows you to stream and unlimited number of songs for $15.00 per month. There is talk of that price decreasing soon, possibly as a response to Rhapsody’s lowering their subscription rate from $15 to $10/month.
The Zune’s ’rounded square’ navigational button rivals the ease and simplicity of the Ipod. While it scrolls easily, you must take care to firmly press down on your selection, otherwise, you may end up not only selecting the wrong song, but possibly the wrong artist. My advice is to always be sure to make deliberate, purposeful clicks when choosing your selections.
The one thing that really isn’t clearly notated is how to power your Zune off. To turn your zune off, you will need to hold down the small button to the left of the navigation button and the bottom of the navigation button at the same time. Press down until the display fades to black. To turn your zune on, press down the small button to the right of the navigation button and the top half of the navigation button at the same time. Of course, the Zune has more features than you can shake a stick at:
- You can download pod casts
- Store your favorite pictures
- Download and play your favorite games
- You can download music videos or those from your own personal vault
The headphones included with this version is markedly different from the previous 80 gig version which consisted of a premium and much more superior set of noise canceling ear buds. I’m not quite why they chose to do this, but I opted to purchase the premium set and give away the other one. You may want to save a few bucks and purchase all of your accessories from eBay. There are quite a few reputable suppliers who sell Zune cases, screen protectors, ear buds, batteries, etc. for a few dollars and they offer free shipping to boot. Of course, in the interest of fairness, I would love to hear from Ipod devotees about why they can’t do without their Ipods. Please share!
UPDATE: I am closing in on my first year of owning my zune player. I hate to report that it is currently in the Microsoft service center being fixed for the second time. This is not easy for me to admit, but at this point, I would NOT recommend buying this player. There are major hard drive failure issues that are difficult for them to get a handle on. When you send your unit in for repair, they do not send yours back but rather a refurbished replacement from another unlucky purchaser who had their own issues. I’m fairly certain that I will have to replace it when it is out of warranty. At that point, I will be spending my money on an IPOD. Zune still shows much promise, however, until they work the kinks out, your money would be better spent elsewhere.
- Listen to your favorite FM radio stations and click to tag the songs you like for later purchase when you sync your device with your PC
- Download millions of tracks, whole albums, or playlists with the Zune Pass subscription service; extend your subscription online or by purchasing a Zune Pass card
- Connect to your home wireless network and remotely sync your Zune device with your PC collection from your dock, AC adapter, or speaker dock accessory
- 120 GB capacity for up to 30,000 songs, 25,000 photos, or 375 hours of video
- 3.2-inch color LCD with 320 x 240 pixel display resolution
- Storage: 120 GB
- Memory type: Internal hard drive
- Display: 3.2-inch color LCD
- Display resolution: 320 x 240 pixels
- Audio support: AAC, MP3, WMA, WMA Lossless
- Picture support: JPEG
- Video support: WMV, H.264, MPEG-4, DVR-MS
- Song capacity: Up to 30,000 songs
- Picture capacity: Up to 25,000 photos
- Video capacity: Up to 375 hours
- Wireless connectivity: 802.11b/g
- Wireless range: Up to 30 feet
- Power supply: Built-in rechargeable battery, AC power adapter (not included), via USB port
- Battery life (music): Up to 30 hours (wireless off)
- Battery (video): Up to 4 hours (wireless off)
- Charging time (AC adapter): Approximately 3 hours (full); approximately 2 hours (90 percent)
- Charging time (via USB): Approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes (full); approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes (90 percent)
- Ports: Connector port, Headphone Jack/AV output
- FM radio: Built-in with RDS
- Languages: English, French, Spanish
- Colors: Black, Pink, Green, Blue and Red
- Dimensions: 2.4 x 4.3 x 0.5 inches / 61.1 x 108.2 x 12.9 millimeters (W x H x D)
- Weight: 4.5 ounces / 128 grams