Zune is a Microsoft brand of portable media players, software that will drive the devices, and an online service for acquiring and sharing media. The initial Zune device comes equipped with a 30 GB hard drive, built-in FM tuner with Radio Data System, 3.0-inch screen, and Wi-Fi networking. For audio, Zune supports MP3, WMA and AAC. Supported video codecs include WMV, h264 and MPEG4. Preloaded music, videos, and images are included as well.
The device is available in three colors and features what Microsoft calls the doubleshot effect, with a translucent glow in a different color. The colors of mainstream availability are black, brown, and white with a doubleshot of blue, green and clear respectively. A limited-edition red Zune was put up for auction in various stores in L.A. Additionally, pink and orange Zune devices were given to the Zune team as ship gifts with “Welcome to the Social” and “November 14, 2006″ written on the back.
One of the features that Microsoft has been pushing as a key differentiator is its Zune-to-Zune Wi-Fi feature. They have enabled the limited sharing of songs, recordings, playlists and pictures with others. Tracks received from another person can be played for up to three days or three plays, whichever comes first, after which it expire unless purchased or downloaded via the Zune Marketplace online. Recipients cannot re-send music or audio files that they have received via the sharing feature. Not all songs are eligible for sharing — record companies can flag songs from the Zune Marketplace as “non-distributable”.
The Zune Software syncs music, pictures and videos to the Zune device. It organizes the media in its library and allows users to add to the library by ripping from CDs, and organize the metadata. It automatically pulls down album art and metadata for all content in the library. The Zune Software is also the medium to access the Zune Marketplace.
The Zune Marketplace is an online service that integrates with the Zune player. Over two million songs are available for purchase using Microsoft Points, the same currency used on Xbox Live, for per-song purchase. The Zune Marketplace can also be used as a subscription-based flat-fee service, if users purchase a monthly “Zune Pass”.
The Zune is able to connect to the Xbox 360, which gives users the ability to stream music, videos, and pictures via USB.
Zune Player Specifications
- 4.4 × 2.4 × 0.58-inch (11.2 × 6.1 × 1.4 cm)
- 5.6 ounces (158.8 grams)
- 802.11b/g built-in Wi-Fi
- 30 GB hard drive
- 3-inch QVGA LCD screen, with a resolution of 320×240; comparison with iPod
- Supports a resolution of 640×480 for video-out playback
- Radio Data System enabled FM receiver
- Supports all unprotected H.264, MP3, WMA, WMV, AVI, MPEG4, JPEG and AAC
- Up to 14 hours battery life when playing music, 4 hours playing video or viewing pictures, with Wi-Fi off
- Charge Time: 3 hours; 2 hours to 90%
- With Wi-Fi turned on, up to 13 hours battery life when playing music (optimal conditions)
Zune Player Hardware Information
- CPU: Freescale i.MX31L processor; ARM Core, FPU (SCIMX31LVKM5 / 3L38W / CTAU0629)
- RAM: 64 MBytes x32 Mobile SDR DRAM / 133 MHz / 90 mA (K4M51323PC-DG75)
- Flash: 2 MBytes NOR flash, 3.3V, 1Mx16 Boot block (PH28F160C3TD)
- FS456LF: PC to TV video scan converter (Macrovision 7)
- Audio: Stereo CODEC with speaker driver / 0.9 W power out (WM8978G)
- FM Tuner: Silicon Labs Si4701 single-chip radio tuner (4701A15)
- TV out: Focus (FS456)
- USB: USB2.0 Philips (ISP1504)
- bus switch: Low voltage octal FET bus switch (CL245 / SN74CBTLV3245A)
- ATA driver (?): 8-bit bus transceiver/driver (P003 / 620A5)
- WiFi: RF/BB/MAC 802.11g WiFi (KeyStream) module (KS3021 / KS7010)
- Power manager: Freescale MC13783
- Battery: Li-Ion battery 3.7 V / 800 mAh (G71C0006Z110)
- Hard Disk: Toshiba 30 GB hard disk, 1.8″ (MK3008GAL)
Zune Player Features
- Ability to send photos, and some music files (not all music files may be shared) from Zune-to-Zune via WiFi. Sharable music files can be played only a maximum of three times, and expire after three days whether they are played or not. Recipients cannot re-send music that they have received via the sharing feature. Photo files may be shared without restrictions.
- Ability to flag tracks received from Zune-to-Zune transfer, a tool used so that a shared song may be purchased from the Zune Marketplace after it has expired.
- Ability to play videos and view pictures
- Updatable firmware
- “ZuneTags”, a field changeable username/profile visible to others who wirelessly scan the area for fellow Zune users.
- The wallpaper on the Zune can be changed to any user-specified image.
- The Zune will play standard podcast files, which are usually available in unprotected MP3 or AAC format. However, the Zune software lacks full podcast support, such as a directory and automatic downloading via RSS feeds. A Zune team member has stated that in the future “We’ll ship podcasting, and we’ll call it “Podcasting” when we do.”
- The player software will automatically convert audio and video in a format not supported by the Zune into a format that is. (e.g. a video with a resolution of 720×540 will be converted to a resolution of 320×240 if necessary).
- Able to show other Zunes nearby what you are listening to or doing through advanced settings.
- Support for Zune Digital Rights Management (DRM) (incompatible with Microsoft’s PlaysForSure, Apple’s iTunes FairPlay, RealNetworks’ Helix, Audible.com audio books, and other DRM schemes)
- Able to create on-the-go playlists without reconnecting to the Zune software
- Built-in FM radio, capable of showing song information on supported FM stations
The Zune Home AV kit includes the dock, remote, cables, and AC charger for a retail price of $99 (although it can be found online for about $80). The primary function of the kit is to put the Zune screen on your TV and the Zune audio on your home system. The dock also charges the player and has a stand in the rear for the remote control.
Docks with built in speakers can be expensive, and typically lack strong bass response so the Zune dock is well suited for people who own a nice component audio system. It’s also fun to watch videos or slide shows with music in the background. In this review a 55″ HDTV was used at 720p resolution, without any audio components except the integrated speakers.
Setup was simple as plugging in a new VCR, the yellow wire is for video and the red and white are the left and right audio channels. When the Zune is docked the menu appears on the TV and the Zune remote can be used to control the player. All buttons are included on the remote so navigation is just like using the player itself, but from a distance.
Photos appear reasonably well but are not crisp on the HDTV due to the low resolution. Videos look a little better because the motion hides the blurriness. Audio comes across with digital quality just as one would expect from a CD player or MP3 player.
Zune Scene was skeptical at first about paying $80-100 for the kit but it quickly showed it’s value, and got used around the house frequently. Overall the AV kit gets an A+ for functionality and quality but a B- for price on the Zune Scene report card.
What are Zune Games?
The Zune brand is all about digital entertainment and you can’t be entertained without games can you? So we are predicting there will be a zune version of the PSP that may or may not get the xbox brand. It will work and integrate with xbox live and compete against Gameboy and similar systems.
What are Zune Downloads?
We’re glad you asked. Zune downloads are a combination of bits and nibbles of binary data. Each one and zero is special in it’s own little way. Some possible zune downloads would be zunecasts, audio files, movies, photos, and even text files. If you are not completely happy with your zune download, send a self addressed stamped envelope to PO Box 22, Waza Lane Texas and we might send you a wooden nickle for your trouble.
There is no better way to show that special someone you love them, than giving the gift of life: a shiny new semi-permeable zune case. Imagine the look in her eyes when she sees you drove straight past Jared’s, and got creative. That’s right, you the man! You bought her a zune case.