Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Good But Dying Breed of MP3 Player: The Microsoft Zune

When it was launched, the Microsoft Zune was often touted as an iPod killer and the real next-gen MP3 player but really, it has not lived up to these standards. As its sales numbers and popularity plummet, people's perspectives of Microsoft in the music market have made a turn for the worse. Don't be expecting Microsoft to be making anything close to an iPod killer any time soon.
However, I'm always making an effort to be as impartial as possible so I will explore whether these opinions are actually correct.
Of course, the first aspect that I notice in anything is the quality of the design. And I cannot rightfully say anything negative regarding this facet in the Microsoft Zune. It is definitely very sleek and comes in a number of appealing colors in addition to the unique art shown in the background of the main screen in the MP3 player.
Moreover, the features of the Microsoft Zune- the real content- are not as poor as they are said to be. In fact, every one of these devices supports music, videos, photos, FM radio and even games. And in comparison to other competitors including the iPod, the Zune without doubt is equal to or edges out all of them in each area. The sound quality and organization of music is really no different from that of any other MP3 player while the videos and photos are displayed on a considerably large screen with excellent resolution. Lastly, there should be absolutely no question in anybody's mind that this gadget's games are much better than those offered by Apple; texas hold 'em, space battle and sudoku are more entertaining than connect four and checkers. One thing that the Zune absolutely lacks in though is the aptness of the controlling scrollwheel. Of course, many MP3s don't even have this innovative feature but iPod's version is much easier to use than the Zune's. Another aspect is the Microsoft marketplace, which does not have nearly as much variety as Apple's iTunes and is a bit more complex than iTunes.
One really cool tool that Zune has is something called "Buy from FM" where the device will identify any song you hear while listening to the radio and will, when told to, download that song the next time you sync it with your computer. This supplements to Zune's ability to connect wirelessly to the marketplace so you can download that song that's been stuck in your head the whole day, on the go.
Lastly, let's look at the prices. There are five different Zunes with 4 GB, 8 GB, 16 GB, 80 GB and 120 GB. They are $99.99, $139.99, $179.99, $229.99 and $249.99 respectively. Most of these cost $10-$20 less than the corresponding iPod.
But is this merited; that's for you to decide. I believe quite firmly that the iPod is better than the Zune but the latter should be the instinctive alternative to the former.

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