Print 43 comment(s) - last by sebmel.. on Sep 16 at 5:11 PM

The Zune HD is officially available as of today

Today is the big day for fans of Microsoft's Zune -- the Zune HD is launching and new details about the device, and the software behind the scenes has turned up with the official launch. The new Zune 4.0 software to go along with the Zune HD player is now ready to download.

Older Zunes are getting some new software love too with a 3.2 update. The new software is fully Windows 7 compliant, naturally. It Supports all those nifty 7 features like Jump Lists, previews, and Aero Snap.

Other new features of the software include a Quickplay menu to access your favorite media on the Zune HD player. Smart DJ is rather like the Apple Genius feature and creates music mixes with similar genres from your collection and it will add music from the Zune marketplace for those with a Zune Pass.

A new Mini Player mode is now available that keeps the mini player on top of any PC apps that are running. Microsoft has also introduced download to rent or own movies and TV shows in SD and HD formats. Engadget also reports that the ability to move DRM tracks between Zune users has been removed from the new software.

Perhaps the most interesting new tidbit of info for the new Zune HD player is that Microsoft plans to position the device as a mobile gaming platform. If the popularity of gaming on the iPod touch and iPhone are an indication of the popularity of mobile gaming, this is a very good thing.

The official Microsoft press release states, "Later this year, Zune plans to release free applications such as Twitter for Zune and Facebook for Zune, in addition to fun 3-D games such as "Project Gotham Racing: Ferrari Edition," "Vans Sk8: Pool Service" and "Audiosurf(TM) Tilt." Games can be added to Zune HD via Zune Marketplace over the Wi-Fi connection or when connected to the Zune PC software."

Microsoft reports that its strategy at this point is to keep some games and apps offered on the Zune HD as free products that are developed in-house or in close collaboration with third parties. Premium 3D games will be items you have to purchase presumably. There will be no SDK to allow devs to build apps for the Zune HD at this point.

The launch of the Zune HD today also marks the retirement of all other Zune devices.

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Software = Big improvement
By thekdub on 9/15/2009 9:32:28 PM , Rating: 2
Updated the software this morning and I have to say, I like it a lot. I loved the previous interface, but the new one seems even better. Quickplay screen is pretty cool too, and I absolutely love the ability to make smart playlists now (although I guess I need to cave in and get a Zune Pass to really get the full effect).

The best part? It doesn't keep both cores of my CPU cranked at 90% idling like the previous software.

Haven't been able to find an actual Zune HD though, there isn't a store within 10 miles of my house that even carries them. Best Buy has a ton of pamphlets for them, but no actual devices (not even a display model or price tag).

RE: Software = Big improvement
By thekdub on 9/16/2009 3:53:40 PM , Rating: 2
Just a little update, BB got their shipments in finally (just the 16GB model though) so I went to check them out.

And all I have to say is wow. I don't mean to sound like a fanboy, but I honestly believe that the only way you can not be impressed by the Zune HD is if you force yourself to think that it isn't good.

The screen on the HD is probably one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Apple's screens in their players are tops, but I'd go as far as to say that the HD's is even better. The player is very responsive and fast thanks to the Tegra chip, and the screen is very precise. I love the body of the thing too, it fits great in your hand and weighs next to nothing, yet feels very solid due to the metal body.

Not gonna write up a whole review, but my verdict? If you want a device primarily for music and videos and don't need all the bells and whistles, go try out a Zune HD. This is where it excels, and is one of the best options in this area. You want something that does everything, has a great internet browser and an app for everything you need, the iPod Touch might be a better option.

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke
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