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back to article Microsoft announces Zune HD

Recent rumours that Microsoft has been secretly working on a new Zune Portable Media Player (PMP) were true, because the firm’s officially unveiled the range’s latest model. Zune_HD Microsoft's Zune HD: 3.3in OLED screen, "HD Radio" and Wi-Fi Called, as expected, Zune HD, the player’s described as “the next iteration of the …

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Jobs Halo

as an apple fan...

i actually like the look of this, it has a battlestar galactica gadget vibe going on....will be interested to see the announced xbox integration and hd playing (through a dock?).

could be more of a competitor to the archos 5, rather than the ipod touch i think......

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Gates Horns

And like the previous Zune

Will fail to deliver on it's promises, only available in North America, and be outsold by every other portable media player on the market...

I can't believe Microsoft are still flogging this dead horse..

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Anonymous Coward

Shame...

That it's state side only, I have a zune 2 and the audio is far superior to that of an Ipod. The only thing I don't like about it... it doesn't work with Linux :(.

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Bronze badge
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But what about the applications

Nice hardware, but if MS wants this to be a contender rather than a also ran like the original zune, it needs an application market place like the itouch/iphone. Without that sort of community support it will be just a very expensive toy.

Rolling it out to North America is hardly going to endear it to the independent developer.

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Confusing

It's looks are bearable, and has some useful features. Have Microsoft outsourced their research and design departments to a Japanese electronics company?

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Anonymous Coward

Those Redmond photocopiers are still running, I see

but will it still be tied to DRM? That's the next battleground, and one that MS is seemingly shy of getting into.

@ Ian Ferguson

The original Zune was a rebadged Toshiba Gigabeat. So, yes.

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But Iphone/Ipod will Match It

Whilst its a bit of a downer that it'll only be available in North America, I think it leads the way as to what to expect from the next gen ITouch/Phone. The specs are very good and show that such a device can be made at a reasonable price point so theres no reason why Apple wont upgrade to similar specs. Unless of course they do the 'we know you'll buy our products regardless so why should we imrpove them' routine. Which I doubt since now Sony also has a OLED player.

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Only available in North America

Like the previous Zune, they will wonder why they are not getting the sales. They really should think global not local.

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@ anunandmouse cowherder

"the audio is far superior to that of an Ipod"

can you expand on this? you're using the same files/bitrate/compression on an ipod and zune are you? and the standard earphones? and you can still tell a difference in sound quality? what are you - a bat?

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Awesome -

An iPod Touch tribute replica is a nice apology from MS for those spiteful anti-Mac TV ads. I expect MS had to pay Toshiba again to actually design and build the hardware, but it's the the thought that counts. Or is Zune HD just a PR stunt on the back of an internal development hardware platform for WinMo 7, not intended for anyone to actually buy?

And by the way, MS - tell us where you're getting the browser code.

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@Jason McQueen

"Unless of course they do the 'we know you'll buy our products regardless so why should we imrpove them' routine"

They have done that once before, but then iAudio came along and bitchslapped them with the X5L, and they spent a year desperately copying it.

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Paris Hilton

Ah well...

Why am I under the impression that MS would be far more successful with the whole ZUNE thing if they actually bothered to sell it to people. Like, in Asia or Europe or so...

This new thing is quite the purdy for something out of MS, reminds me of a early 90s upscale Discman. I also hear from the US that ZUNE devices feature good sound quality. Sadly, I won't ever be able to find out.

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@ richard @ anunandmouse cowherder

It's probably due to the Zune 2 coming with decent in-ear bud headphones, where as all iPods come with those cheap little white things that are louder to anyone near by than to the listener.

Also must admit, that with the same headphones, the quality of sound from iPods is not that good - I can see why (or more accurately hear why) some audiophiles prefer the Sony offering.

I should point out I do have an iPod Shuffle G2 - perfect for those gym sessions (and has lasted longer than my gym membership...), replaced the headphones on it within days - but then did the same on my Archos as well.

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@richard

Your comment implies that all media players sound the same and only a bat could tell the difference.

You're wrong. There can be big and noticable differences. The ipod is good but isn't very rich and bassy, my old Creative player pisses over it.

Cowon players are known for their superb sound quality.

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Will this one ...

... have have any sort of sound enhancement options, like an equalizer, a stereo widener or even something as basic as bass/treble controls? And can it be recognized as a mass storage device, to enable drag-and-dropping files onto it?

Looks pretty sharp, though, design-wise, I must say.

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@ richard

If you can't hear the difference, you must be hard of hearing!

The iPod headphone amp is cheap as chips (read: execrable quality), it really does have a serious impact on the sound.

This is why I always wince when I see people using the headphone amp as a line out when they should be using a dock connector on the bottom; the sound quality from the proper line out pins is vastly better, although I'd still hesitate to describe it as 'good'.

The files/bitrate/headphones/etc do all need to be the same, but the electronics in the analogue domain are going to have a huge effect.

FWIW, I use a fairly old Creative with an external headphone amp (I'm quite anal about sound quality). I spent over twice the price of my mp3 player on the amp and decent headphones to go with it, and the difference is staggering.

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Flame

Just to pre-empt...

"What??? This god-forsaken bag of sh*te doesn't play BGBZB4.0 files, even though they're so obscure only I use them because I just made it up? Well I'm going to blow myself up because I'm so enraged!!!

FAIL!"

ho ho ho....

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Tom
Gates Halo

Looks rather good

Nice bit of design, and with an OLED panel it should really shine!

Are those user accessible screws on the back?

I'd be tempted if they sold them in blightey.

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Alert

Why

Only in America? Why not develop something that integrates with xboxen and PCs the world over and ultimately compete with the ifanboipod?

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Stop

Why the DRM comments?

The Zune has no more (probably less) DRM than the iPod.

Please read up about a product before making old tired generalisations.

As for Zune sound quality, take a look over at Head-Fi.org, probably the biggest portable audio forum on the web -

http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f15/zune-any-good-425827/

http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f15/any-zune-owners-out-there-348181/

http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f15/ipod-touch-vs-zune-354029/

Remember this is a site with a lot of Apple users on it and generally the Zunes SQ over the iPod doesnt get challenged very often.

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@ whoever and dapprman

yep the standard ipod headphones are pretty poor, i opted for sony ex71 in-ear ones, not bad. you can of course alter the sound with the equalizer feature if you need more bass.

but come on, if you leave out the headphones, the file quality/compression/type rah rah rah, then most songs will sound the same on an ipod and a zune, they are just hard drives aren't they?

@dapprman - what sort of archos do you have? i've got my eyes on an archos 5 instead of ipod touch....

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Anonymous Coward

Not Win7

It's not Win Mobile 7 but apparently WinCE based. That's a great advert to Microsoft's partners in WinMobile. As for DRM - their big US marketing thing is the Zune Pass vs the thousands of dollars you'd need to spend to get the same tracks from iTMS. Given the nature of the Zune Pass it almost certainly needs DRM.

(And while I have no interest in a subscription system, as I already own more music already than I am likely to buy going forward, I can see it's appeal for teens).

I also have a suspicion that the audio quality on the iPod has probably fallen as the price has fallen - good analog components don't fall in price at the same rate as digital ones, and of course there is a continual pressure to reduce prices.

Think back to the CD market - people were sold on the idea of perfect sound forever - then bought the cheapest nastiest stereos that they could.

I'm still amused that commenters on the Register still think that drag'n'drop file management / using your audio player as a mass storage device is something anyone really cares about. Most people just use a memory stick for file transfer, and evidently prefer the managed library approach (i.e. the further they can get away from a file system the better).

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Yes please!

I've been an iPod user for years and have owned four different models. I got my wife a Zune at her request a few months back, and she loves it. I've been thinking about getting one myself, but my 80GB iPod works fine, and have not been able to justify springing for another media player. But if Microsoft backs up that beautiful screen with a decent hard drive (or enough flash memory to store a decent amount of HD video) then this is what I'll be buying in the fall.

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Anonymous Coward

@ richard

No - read my first post again!

If you leave out headphones, file quality/compression type etc etc, there will still be a difference.

It's not just a hard drive at all - there is analogue amplification happening (because, guess what, your ears can't accept a digital input. Well mine can't anyway) - and this will DEFINITELY make a difference to the sound. The quality of the DAC will also affect things, although not as much as the amplification.

An experiment can easily be devised to illustrate differences between different amplifiers, but I will leave this as an exercise for the reader (remember to use true ABX testing, kids!). If you can't be bothered, then just take my word for it - not all amplifiers are created equal, so they will sound different.

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Stop

Sound quality

Folks, the audio quality of devices is mostly defined by their innards, so the DAC and especially the amp-stage. If you have proper hardware, even "not so good" files will sound great, while with "just about works" hardware even HQ lossless files will sound anemic. That's why Sony could sell Minidisc Players back in the day. Good hardware and lots of amp-power made the heavily compressed ATRAC files sound fine. I still have a portable recorder whose DAC/AMP stages are so decent that I often use it in a big stereo setup as a dedicated DAC. What you find in today's portable devices is for the most part CSFC, but even with CSFC there are differences.

I thhoght this board was full of engineers? ;)

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Kinda handsome

But I hope that screen's a mock-up or customisable. It's always a good idea to have the whole of your main menu fit on the screen at once.

But having said that, I've found the look and feel of the Zune interface and the Zune Store to be far superior to Apple's offerings.

As a piece of hardware and software this *should* be a big success, but I suspect with another iPhone refresh imminent, Microsoft is going to be lucky to maintain their increasingly irrelevant market share.

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@ @ whoever and dapprman

I've an Archos 604 - bought it about 2 years after the model was dropped (and thus was cheap). One of the key things was the replaceable battery (though I had also been humming ans ha'ing about getting one for ~3 years at that point).

A colleague has an Archos 5 and I'm two minds about it. The interface is (to me) a mess and (like all Archos products) you have to keep on top of firmware releases, bug free they are not, also Archos's customer support is very poor (a source of complaints on the forums), which is a shame because the audio quality is good, and video playback on the A604 is superior to on an iPod Touch - just a shame Archos are not good at interfaces.

Funny thing is I bought the A604 (replacing my olds Creative Zen USB who's battery had finally died after 5 years of use) as I could not get a Zen 2 80 in Blighty.

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Hah!

In your face Europe! Here in the states we now have access to a *high definition* machine to play crappy, compressed-to-hell-and-not-quite-back "music" on!

Wait a minute...

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turd...

...polished

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No

HD Radio is NOT HD, don't be fooled

HD, when referring to HD radio in the states, stands for "Hybrid Digital", NOT high definition. It's "quality" is no better then analog radio, and some would even say worse (due to "MPEG" type artifacts that some ears are more sensitive to then others).

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Sound Quality

What Bad Beaver said, although this does all hinge on using headphones that arent white and cost more than 10p.

I use EX71's too fwiw, nice bass & being the ear plug type, doesn't force the person sitting next to you to listen to your tinny residue.

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Happy

RE: Anonymous Coward Posted Wednesday 27th May 2009 13:08 GMT

"I'm still amused that commenters on the Register still think that drag'n'drop file management / using your audio player as a mass storage device is something anyone really cares about. Most people just use a memory stick for file transfer, and evidently prefer the managed library approach (i.e. the further they can get away from a file system the better)."

See, the thing about the drag'n'dropsters is that they are so very... verbal about their OCD. They've spent months setting up their "individual" folder structures all night long, usually filling them with some obscure format like OGG that hardly any device can play in the first place and now they bitch and moan whenever they are forced to realize that 99,998% of people enjoy listening more than filing and therefore are fine with whatever iTunes does.

Then there is the other group that is not actually suffering from OCD but they are notorious pirates and 95% of their low bitrate MP3s has filenames like 198225541bzcz_u.mp3 and was never tagged properly meaning they are stuck on folder structures "under their control" for the bare ability to ever find "that track by CCR" again.

It's a harsh, harsh life out there.

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@ Chris

If you think EX71s are decent, you need to try a few alternatives...

I'm using Etymotic Research ER4s in custom moulds for in ears, Sennheiser HD-25 for small portable closed cup cans, and Sony MDR-7509HD for the big daddy over the ear jobs (I alternate between them all on my portable player depending on a variety of factors)

Granted, both those examples are probably slightly OTT, but as noted above I am fanatical about sound quality!

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Anonymous Coward

@ Chris

If you think EX71s are decent, you need to try a few alternatives...

I'm using Etymotic Research ER4s in custom moulds for in ears, Sennheiser HD-25 for small portable closed cup cans, and Sony MDR-7509HD for the big daddy over the ear jobs (I alternate between them all on my portable player depending on a variety of factors)

Granted, those examples are probably slightly OTT, but as noted above I am fanatical about sound quality!

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No thanks. I already have a real one.

A: More "me too" photcopying action from Microsoft.

B: DRM'ed to shreds. the subscription service will make sure of that. "not ONE drm'ed track on my iPods"

C: You can bet its Windows only, just like the last Zunes. Show me the support for my Linux box and my Macs and try again. "My pod works on all three" I'm not being locked back into Windows by anyone. I actually USE my computers.

I'm just waiting to see if it locks out XP users to try and force updating, it would be pure Ballmer. Another third party made Microsoft also ran. And WinCE? You have got to be kidding!

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jai
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Jobs Halo

feel guilty

i quite like the styling of that

but why would the font on the menu be so big? even if it's a prototype build, it doesn't make sense that the font would be so large

and if it's a promotional, artists impression, you'd spend a few minutes in photoshop to fix that

and who has such text-orientated menus these days anyway? all main menus are large icons, small text, because that way people can see more options

if that is the main interface method, then you'd best hope there isn't any App Store equivalent as it'll take you all day to scroll through 30 apps, let alone the 80 apps i have on my iphone

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