Microsoft Zune 120 GB Review


28.05.2009

It goes without a doubt that the Apple iPod has been, and still is the best audio/video player you can find. The features, the design and last but not least, the music quality made the iPod what it is today. It is only obvious that other major companies started to focus their attention on the audio/video player market. Microsoft one of these major companies and the Microsoft Zune is their attempt to impress the population. Let’s see how well they did.

Buy Microsoft Zune 120 GB

The Design

Zune 120 has a similar design to that of Zune 80. The only difference is that the back side is not black, not silver while the front of the player is covered by a glossy plastic that looks good, but it’s a good chance it will be covered in scratches after a few months.

The dimensions of the player are 4.3 inches high by 2.4 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick. The front panel hosts the 3.2 inch LCD that is covered in glass and the navigation controls.

Buy Microsoft Zune 120 GB

The Features

The menu reflects some of the improvements, with the Games and Marketplace items being added to the Music, Video, Pictures, Radio, Podcast, Social and Settings that were present in the Zune 80 model.

The Marketplace will allow you to buy music from Microsoft’s Zune Marketplace online store. There is a 30 seconds limit to the previews. If you like them, add them to the virtual cart and then download them. The subscription is a flat $15 monthly fee that will enable you to download unlimited songs. You can also pay for each song that you can download. And you can download a lot of them if you afford it, since Zune 120 has a 120GB capacity (hence the 120).

The marketplace can only work by using the Wi-Fi connectivity, as it is present in Zune 120 and can connect to public hot spots as well as to Wayport Wi-Fi hotspots. Zune will remember the passwords for each connection so you will have to use the Zunepad to enter them only once.

The radio is one of the best you can find on a MP3 player, with RBDS support and a radio-tagging feature that is very interesting but has limited functionality.

While the marketplace is a great addition, the Games feature does not match up. The games are of mediocre quality at best, with only two of them being included but with the possibility to buy more from the Zune Marketplace.

Microsoft Zune can play a decent number of audio file formats: MP3, WMA, AAC and Audible. This should be more than enough to keep the headaches away. The video player can work with WMV, MPEG-4 and H.264 video formats at a 320×240 resolution, with the option to play it on your TV.

Zune’s Social feature is an interesting thing: it allows you to connect with your friends. But there is one thing: they need to have a Zune. Building a music portal similar to Last.fm is an appreciated intention but our opinion is that the overall result is quite flawed.

Another feature you might enjoy is the ability to manage and play podcast feeds without any major complications. Detailed information as well as basic management is available directly from the device.
The Desktop Software takes care of its tasks well and runs well even on old computers. Unlike the iTunes, there are little advanced features available, but some of the features (Mixview for one can be used to find out similar artists, similar songs and such) are well implemented.

Buy Microsoft Zune 120 GB

The Performance

One of the most important thing with an MP3 player (if not the most important) is the audio quality, and since it can play videos, their quality too. And here is where Microsoft Zune 120 stands out in front of the non-iPod competition: the sound is great and the video quality is one of the best you can find.

But here comes a minor flaw of this device: it does not come with a high quality headset. Since without it you cannot take full advantage of the clear but intense sound coming out of Zune, it is more like bad publicity than cost reducing strategy.

The battery will hold for about 30 hours of audio playback, while video playback drains the battery in about 4 hours. It is not bad, but video playback time should be bigger as the difference between the two playback times is too big.

Buy Microsoft Zune 120 GB

How Good Is It?

It is not better than the iPod touch. The latter provides a more exciting experience, better features, better software and better video quality. This does not mean the Zune is a bad player. In fact, it is better than all other high capacity players.

While the music subscription is a great addition, the audio quality is great, the video quality is fair and the other features are decent, it is only with a better headset and superior battery life that the Zune will really be a competition for the iPod.

Buy Microsoft Zune 120 GB

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