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Microsoft strikes back: Zune HD

by Joshua Mitchell  |  December 23, 2009

After more unsuccessful attempts to impose itself on the media player market and to compete against iPod, Microsoft has finally released a product which is competitive from all points of view: hardware, software and looks. Zune HD is a perfect combination between elegant design and powerful features, succeeding to match even the colorful iPod Nano.

Released one week after Apple has announced its fifth Generation of iPod Nano, on September 15, Zune HD has succeeded to make quite an impression and gather many positive reviews. According to Amazon, BestBuy and Dell, the new player sold out within the first week of release. It seems that the time and effort invested in the makeover of the first generation of media players have finally paid off.

Hardware

Zune HD was released on the market in two versions - 16GB (Onyx Black) and 32GB (Platinum Silver), at a price range between $220 and $290. Only the iPod Touch can match and top such a memory capacity, with its 32GB and 64GB models.

In terms of colors, Zune HD is available on the Zune Store in other five great colors: blue, green, red, purple and magenta (the last two colors have been available starting December 1st). Although the colors don’t have that glossy and shiny touch of the iPod Nano 5th generation, they still look pretty good, especially the last two newcomers.

The 3.3 inch multi-touch screen with OLED display and 16:9 aspect ratio, gives Zune HD an elegant look, and enters in direct competition with iPod’s Touch 3.5 inch screen. Regarding the size and weight, Zune HD weighs less than an iPod Touch, but more than an iPod Nano, that is 74 grams (2.6 ounces), and has 52.7 mm x 102.1 mm x 8.9 mm.

The battery lasts approximately 33 hours when playing music, 8.5 hours when seeing videos, and is completely charged in 2 hours. This surpasses iPod’s Touch battery autonomy, but not by far.

Also, in term of hardware, Zune HD incorporates an audio and video output (HDMI or composite) and a 3.5 mm Headphone jack. Although the lack of the photo camera is a big minus, Zune HD supports JPEG format.

Software  

If until now we’ve admired Zune HD on the outside, now it’s time to see what it can do when it comes to software capabilities.

The big novelty that Microsoft brings is the compatibility with the 720p HD format, and the Zune HD AV Dock (that is sold separately), which allows users to see quality HD movies on their personal HDTV. Taking into account that more and more movies are released on a HD format, this feature is surely a big plus.

Other top features are: Wi-Fi connectivity, built-in FM/HD radio, web browser, built-in accelerometer, quickplay capabilities, and thanks to the Nvidia Tegra graphics processor, the Zune HD can even run 3D applications.

The newly released 4.3 firmware has offered game addicts more thrill and action with the newest available feature: 3D gaming, plus a series of Free games on the Zune Marketplace. Rumors also have it, that in the future, Microsoft will make available even a series of free applications for Zune, such as Twitter and Facebook.

Per total, Zune HD is a serious competitor for both Apple and Sony and a really cool gadget for all those who want to buy more than a media player.

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