It's like family, only weirder…

Too Zune to Tell

I got a Zune for Christmas – a wonderful gift, really. I really wanted to get into the iPod/Zen/etc. scene, but I wasn’t that interested in the whole iTunes thing. I also want video to be a comfortable size and 4:3 aspect ratio. The Zune has that, and is still pocket size and relatively inexpensive. The device does exactly what it’s supposed to do, so no one can really complain about features and capabilities. They all play MP3’s, many play AAC’s, many play WMA’s…whatever. I chose a Microsoft product because I know they have to put a lot on this to compete in the iPod space. The Zune Marketplace is also pretty hip for local/unknown bands. They seem to have put a lot into the Marketplace right up front, which is a good deliverable. I’m anxious to see how it grows before investing in the subscription just yet. If they can help me justify the price by providing things like audio books, movies, TV shows, and other little tidbits beyond just DRM’d audio, I will probably bite. The only real want I have for the Zune is software type of stuff. It would be nice to have usable wireless for synchronization and/or Marketplace downloading, but it’s not a requirement at this point. The software could be a little more robust. I’m used to MediaMonkey, so I have the desire for more ID3 tagging glory and I like MediaMonkey’s Amazon.com tagging. Zune does a good job of this through the MediaPlayer API’s, but it lacks in real innovation. The whole Zune hardware and software modus operandi seems to be around intuitive interaction and simplicity. That’s a good thing, I just wish there was an advanced button hidden somewhere to give me the technical stuff I like for certain functions. Another software nicety would be to link EQ settings to wherever you set them. That is, add the ability to EQ a song specifically and memorize that setting. Regardless of the wish or want, the Zune is said to be very software upgradeable. I’m holding out final judgment to see how some of the first “service packs” go for the device. I expect to see some new functionality coming out for the device within the first quarter or so – whether by Microsoft or others. I won’t be putting Linux on the device just yet, but seeing what people can do leaves me hope. Oh – and there is no built-in FM transmitter in case there’s still some confusion around that. There’s an FM tuner, but the transmitter is supplied by a third-party and probably sucks unless you get it hard-wired into your car. I bought a cheap one ($50!), though I didn’t realize I was going to have to spend in excess of this to get the functionality I desire. Where I live, the stations seem to come and go throughout town and I can’t lock onto a single station and expect it work for more than a couple of minutes while driving. It takes on too much interference too, and I hate that. I realize I could probably make it work most of the time, but the random interruption of static or another radio station will drive me insane. I’m resorting to a hard-wired FM transmitter for the car, which I already own but don’t have installed in the Mazda3.

When I’ve gotten more use out of this device, complete with car integration, I will write again on my more broken-in device and its associated software.


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