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October 14, 2008


Filed under Music, Reviews


I dumped my iPod's and now I'm all about Zune.

Why? I tried out the Zune software first and was *very* impressed.

There are three main parts to iPod:

  1. iPod hardware
  2. iTunes music player for your PC
  3. iTunes store

Similarly, there are three main parts to Zune:

  1. Zune Hardware
  2. Zune Software for your PC
  3. Zune Marketplace

Here's what I like about Zune/don't like about iPod...

Zune Hardware

I bought the new 120GB black Zune.

  • The included Zune headphones have magnets that make the ear buds stick together so tangled chords are less of an issue.
  • I bought the premium headphones (also have magnetized ear buds) and they do an amazing job of silencing external noise so you can listen at a lower volume. Bass is surprisingly good.
  • Photos automatically synced
  • Videos automatically synced
  • I *hate* the iPod clickwheel. When I want to choose the next song in a list via the clickwheel, I typically overshoot by a few songs and must resonate back and forth to get the proper selection. I also don't like when I have to constantly rotate my finger around the clickwheel to move through a long list.
  • Zune has a slick 4-way direction pad/touch pad called the Zune Pad. Want the next song? Just press the bottom of the pad once. Done! Need to scroll through a bunch of songs, flick your finger over the pad and songs will scroll past very quickly...just tap when you get close to stop. The Zune Pad is both better at precise selection and quickly traversing a long list than the iPod clickwheel. Check out this video to see it in action.
  • Built-in FM radio (iPod has no radio). If you hear a song on the radio you like, just click the Zune Pad and you can buy it and add it to your collection...very cool!
  • The directional pad/touch pad works well for games. The directional pad works just like a standard up/down/left/right navigation on a standard gaming system. It works great for games like Pac Man. The Zune Pad gives you mouse-like control (like for Missile Command or Centipede). The clickwheel *sucks* for games.
  • Speaking of games...XNA allows writing a game once and deploying on Windows, Xbox 360, and now Zune.
  • I can sync my Zune wirelessly (Zune has built in WiFi). This means I can leave my Zune in a charger/dock that is connected to my home theater system (for music, videos, and photos). While my Zune is charging in my living room, it wirelessly syncs with my PC that is in my office. Very slick!
  • The Zune User Interface is very polished and fun...much nicer than iPod.
  • Zune's 3.5" screen is much better for watching videos than iPod Classic's 2.5" screen
  • Zune can use WiFi to listen or purchase music from the Zune Marketplace

Zune Software

The Zune Software is *amazing*! Here it is in action. It is the best looking software I've ever seen...


iTunes looks like (ahem) an office productivity app in comparison...


Even Zune's installation is worth checking out. It doesn't use the standard InstallShield wizard setup. Some of the dialog boxes have very subtle geometric animations in the background...nice touch.

I recommend anybody that creates software check out Zune Software...they clearly had artists involved in the development of the software and it shows.

You can get the software here.

Here's what I like about Zune Software over iTunes

  • iTunes is slow. The UI bogs down while downloading. I haven't noticed any slowdown's with Zune Software.
  • iTunes doesn't support forward/back buttons on mouse, Zune does
  • When playing a song, Zune Software defaults to a mosaic of album covers from your collection in the background that constantly change:image
  • For some artists, Zune does a montage of color-shifting photos mixed with informative text:image
  • If I update iTunes, Apple tries to slip in Safari *every* time. Unchecking the checkbox gets old fast. Also notice how the Apple dialog doesn't follow the Window's dialog box guidlines that place the least disruptive action on the right (they are following the Mac guidelines). Best Windows app ever written? Puhleez!
  • If you sync with a cable, you can just unplug your Zune at anytime...no need to tell the software you want to "eject" your device (which you have to do with iPod/iTunes).
  • With Zune, you can delete a song while it is playing. With iTunes, you can't.
  • If you delete a song via explorer, it is instantly removed from your Zune library. With iTunes, the song is still there, but gives an error because it can't be found.
  • Restoring music from the recycle bin instantly updates the Zune library.
  • As soon as you update the tag information for an MP3 via explorer, it shows up in the Zune library automatically. For iTunes, you must do "File->Import" each time your music library changes outside of iTunes.
  • Rating system for music is stored *in* the music file for Zune. For iTunes, it is not. So if you copy your mp3 to another system, you will lose the iTunes ratings, but not the Zune ratings. With Zune, you can set the rating in explorer and Zune will recognize the rating (doesn't work for iTunes).
  • Zune's rating system is simpler than iTunes (3 levels verses 6). I'm more likely to use the 3 levels (like/don't like/unrated) because the difference between levels is clear. I'm not sure how to tell the difference between a song with 1 star verses 2.
  • Zune music rating nicely integrated with explorer. Zune's three ratings map to explorer's 5 star rating like this:
    •   like = 4/5
    •   don't like = 1/5
    •   unrated = no rating
  • The Zune UI is filled with subtle fades and slide animation that give it nice polish
  • You can view your photos in Zune, you can't in iTunes.


Zune Marketplace

Zune Marketplace is where you can browse music and videos for purchase.

  • Uses same "point" system as Xbox 360. You can purchase music with your Xbox points.
  • Zune Pass (which I got) lets you listen to any song you want on your PC or your player for $15/month. iTunes doesn't have a subscription model.
  • MixView helps you find music you might like based on music you do like. How does it compare to iTune's new Genius Playlist? Here's one view.
  • Picks: Zune Marketplace will suggest music you may like and connect you with listeners that have similar tastes so you can browse their playlists
  • Channels: playlists that are updated every week by professionals that know what they are doing


I didn't even get into the social aspect of Zune, which is completely missing from iPod.

One example of the social component is the Zune badge.

If you click on my home page, you can see I have a Zune badge on the right. This badge tracks what I'm listening to, which artists I like, what my favorite songs are. I don't have to do anything...it automatically stays up to date as I play music. If you click on the badge, you get the more detailed version below:

So far, I *really* like my Zune. I still use my iPod Shuffle for jogging, but with Mediafour's XPlay, I don't need/use iTunes at all...which is wonderful!
Highly recommended!

Comments (2)

Steven Soto:

But - Now we know you've been listening to Duran Duran.

That is the *least* of my worries.

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