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Let’s go back to music. Zune HD software will take care of album art in case you don’t have any, which is a nice touch. History and Pin options can take you faster to either to content you listened or watched before or to a shortcuts that you can predefine. You can install applications of Zune HD but only if you can make it to make an account on Zune market. Americans and Canadians won’t have any issues, but Europeans and European credit cards are persona non grata which might make things more complicated. Microsoft made it clear that this is an America oriented device as it doesn't sell it in Europe. You have to get one from America or import it to your desired country.
The choice of applications is very limited and pitiful compared to iTune store and Cydia or similar installers for iPhone / iPod touch players. We tried some games, and we can tell that graphics look great, at least in free Space Battle 2. The Weather application from MSN is nothing that will impress you, but it’s a Microsoft’s attempt to copy Apple's weather application used on the iPhone. There will be more applications as this device is very young and there will be more and more applications. We almost forgot about the radio, but there here is not much to say anyway. It works well, scans the stations very fast, supports RDS and the radio station you are listening to uses it.
Microsoft also makes a big deal about Podcast and has it as a separate category for both video and audio podcasts. The other category worth mentioning is social category what has something to do with Microsoft own attempt to make Zune HD users to talk to each other but tweeter and some similar social not-working medias got its own application and can run on Zune.
The device doesn’t have integrated speakers, which makes it quite thin. You do need headphones or a line in cable connected to some sort of speakers to make it sing. The headphones that Microsoft ships are average and will play music, but they could have shipped something better. The most annoying thing is that there are no any controls on the headphones and you have to reach for your pocket to skip the song and adjust the volume.
The greatest things about Zune HD are its incredible speed, great looking OLED display and Nvidia's Tegra chip that makes browsing, HD and video audio playback very fast. Basically, this is one great alternative to iPod Touch. It comes with either 16GB or 32GB of memory that should be enough for most consumers.
The drawbacks are the lack of HDMI and lack of controls on average headphones, but most people buy better headphones for good MP3 players, as they are not happy with iPhone / iPod ones. I did so myself.
The price is competitive to an iPod Touch, but iPhone 3GS easily wins the battle simply as it has a phone function.
A few suggestions for the next generation would be headphone mounted controls or a bit better headphones. HDMI connector is a must and we would like a phone option. Matched with an OLED screen and Tegra 2 it would be even better and we can predict that new Zune should be able to play 1080P and remains fast if not faster than the current one.
Microsoft did a good job with this device and so did Nvidia with very power efficient Tegra chip that can push HD playback on this tiny device. The key thing is that the device is so fast with what it offers that you cannot make it faster. If you are looking for an iPod touch alternative this is the device for you.
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