Hands on: 32GB Zune HD walk around and first impressions

Summary:The Zune HD is now available online and in retail locations throughout the US. I received the platinum one from Amazon before I saw the Zune Original with FC Sounders etching that I ordered yesterday. I will be sending back this silver model and taking a deeper look at my blue Zune Original next week if it ships as planned. I've now spent several hours with the Zune HD and took several photos of the device and software that you can check out in my image gallery, along with a video walk around the device. There will be a couple of follow-up articles looking at the web browser and apps as well. Check out some of my initial thoughts to see if I am pleased with my $300 purchase and if the Zune HD is something you might want to consider.

The Zune HD is now available online and in retail locations throughout the US. I received the platinum one from Amazon before I saw the Zune Original with FC Sounders etching that I ordered yesterday. I will be sending back this silver model and taking a deeper look at my blue Zune Original next week if it ships as planned. I've now spent several hours with the Zune HD and took several photos of the device and software that you can check out in my image gallery, along with a video walk around the device. There will be a couple of follow-up articles looking at the web browser and apps as well. Check out some of my initial thoughts to see if I am pleased with my $300 purchase and if the Zune HD is something you might want to consider.


Image Gallery:Check out some product photos and UI screenshots of the Zune HD along with a comparison with some older Zune models.
Image Gallery: Zune HD in hand
Image Gallery: Shot of the OLED display

Available options and box contents

You can buy the Zune HD in 16GB and 32GB capacities with the 32GB model coming in platinum and the 16GB in black. There are different colored Zune Originals (red, green, and blue) that you can choose from and customize as well.

The Zune HD comes in a very compact and sturdy box along with a pair of decent stereo headphones, USB cable, and Quick Start Guide. There is no case, cradle, or external charger.

Initial impressions

When the Zune HD arrived it was the first time I have seen the device in person and was immediately blown away by how compact and thin it actually was. It has the same thickness as the iPod touch, yet is narrower and feels better in your hand. The angles on the back make it feel even thinner in the palm of your hand.

The OLED display is beautiful, but I did expect it to have a bit higher resolution. My T-Mobile Touch Pro2 has a much higher resolution display and it is not even focused on multimedia like the Zune HD. Touch is picked up quite easily, making navigation slick and fast. This thing flies and zipping around it was a real pleasure.

Specifications

Specifications of the Zune HD include the following:
  • 16:9 3.3 inch 480x272 OLED display
  • Nvidia Tegra 2600 processor. Tegra includes an 800-MHz ARM CPU, a high-definition video processor, an imaging processor, an audio processor and an ultralow-power GeForce GPU in a single package. (As reported by Wired.com)
  • 16GB or 32GB internal flash memory
  • 802.11 b/g WiFi
  • 660 mAh battery for a reported life of 33 hours music and 8.5 hours of movies with no WiFi
  • Integrated FM/HD radio receiver
  • 3.5mm headset jack

Walk around the hardware

The front is dominated by the 3.3 inch flush 480x272 OLED display. It looks great in most all lighting conditions and is viewable in full direct sunlight with the brightness turned up to the highest level (there are 3 levels). The iPhone/iPod touch is much more viewable in direct sunlight, but I rarely ever use any of my devices in such direct sunlight so this is not a concern to me personally. The display looks fine in the shade and other lighting conditions and the colors are quite vibrant. Below the display is the single home button that will get you back to the main menu screen.

I actually had to read through the Quick Start Guide because I couldn't figure out how to go back through the levels without always going back to the home screen. FYI, you simply tap the top words where the menu heading is cut off and only part of it shows. For example, only the bottom of SETT shows on the word Settings.

The display is not oleophobic like the iPhone and thus you will get fingerprints on it. It is flush and easy to wipe off, but I would have preferred to see a fingerprint resistant material used here.

Along the top you will find the power button. A single press of this turns off the display and a press and hold turns the Zune HD off or on. There is nothing on the right side and on the left side you will only find the media button up top. Pressing this media button actually activates an on-screen overlay where you can increase/decrease the volume, move forward or backwards in/between tracks, and play or pause a file. Battery level will also appear on this pop-up display. These controls can also be activated by pressing the display when something is playing. The words "Hello from Seattle" do appear towards the bottom on the left side too.

The standard Zune connection port (don't you love that it is the same through all Zune generations?) and 3.5mm headset jack are located on the bottom.

The only thing on the back is the Zune logo and four visible corner screws so it appears fairly easy to access the internals of the Zune HD, which will probably void your warranty and should not be done.

What is the new UI like?

When you are on the home screen you will see a menu partially hidden off to the left. If you slide your finger across the display from left to right you will see this menu take center stage. It shows you your pinned files, recent history, and newly added items. You can pin a file by pressing and holding on it.

Here are some basics from the Zune site that you may find helpful (I know very few people read manuals):

* On/off button. Press the on/off button to turn the player on. It will turn off by itself after a period of inactivity. To turn it off manually, press and hold the button until you see the off option. * Media button. Press the media button to open volume and playback controls, and to view battery level. * Return to home screen. Press the home button. * Go to Quickplay. Tap the background on the home screen to bring Quickplay to the fore. * Shuffle all music. Tap the play button at the immediate left of the word Music on the home screen. * Previous screen. Press the magnified text at the top of the screen or the virtual back button (when visible). * Playback options. Buttons to shuffle, repeat, and rate songs appear along the bottom of the now playing screen. * Playlists. To save a playlist of the songs you're listening to, go to Music, Playlists, Now Playing, and tap the Save button. * Jump to a letter in a list. Music lists have alphabetical headings. Tap any letter for a letter menu, then tap another letter to jump to that position in the list. * Zoom. Two short taps will enlarge your view of a picture or website. * Screen lock/unlock. To avoid accidental touch commands, turn the screen off by pressing the on/off button. To turn the screen on, press the on/off button, then move your finger across the screen to unlock it. * PIN lock/unlock. Use PIN lock to require a 4-digit code for screen access. You can enable/disable PIN lock in Settings. * HD Radio. Zune HD supports HD Radio, offering digital reception and—in many cases—additional programming from your favorite FM stations. Availability depends on station broadcasts and Zune reception. For a list of stations in your area, visit www.hdradio.com.

The Zune HD supports multi-touch so you can zoom into photos or websites by pinching and zooming just like the iPhone. It works wonderfully in the photo browser and flicking through photos is a real pleasure.

I have always found my Zune devices to sound a bit better than my iPods and the Zune HD continues to sound fantastic to me through my Ultimate Ears headphones.

There are very few apps for the Zune HD, but I honestly am not looking for a ton of them at this time since I use my smartphones for apps and not my media players. All the games have a Kia Soul ad in them that shows or plays every time, which is why I guess the games are all free (stay tuned for this post coming soon).

More initial thoughts

I didn't think much about the HD radio when I first heard about it, but after trying it out (see my video) I think it will be a feature I come to love. Here are the directions for using the HD radio found on the Zune site:

Tune your Zune HD to a radio station

1. On the Zune HD home screen, tap radio. 2. Press and hold the tuner band beneath the frequency, then swipe your finger left or right until you come to the station that you want to listen to. If the station broadcasts in multiple streams, you'll see them on the tuner labelled "HD1" and "HD2", for example. 3. Tap an HD station to select it.

Change the radio region when you travel to Europe or Japan

1. Select settings, radio. 2. Choose a radio region.

I also followed a link that lists the following features in HD radio:

* FM Multicasting – the ability to broadcast multiple program streams over a single FM frequency (e.g. 97.7-1, 97.7-2, etc.) * Static-free, crystal-clear reception * FM sounds as sensational as CDs * AM sounds as rich as analog FM stereo * A variety of “data services,” including text-based information – artist name, song title, weather alerts, school closings, etc. scrolled across your receiver display. * Digital broadcasts in the same frequencies as analog broadcasts; listeners do not need to learn a new station number and today’s stations remain at their current place on the dial * Local content * Free

I found the stations to be very clear and since there are a few stations I really enjoy I may be using this quite a bit. You can also choose to add the song to your cart for later downloading via the Zune Marketplace. Think of it as integrated Shazam.

The hardware is very impressive and the UI makes the experience very pleasant. I remember when I first picked up the iPhone and was blown away by how fluid everything was. Well, the Zune HD does the same thing, but with a much more media-focused layout. There will be comparisons with the iPod touch and iPhone, but of course the Zune HD cannot hang with all the apps in the App Store. I am not looking for the Zune HD to run lots of apps and surf the internet (you will see my thoughts on that in my next post) and want it to be my music subscription host that rocks in the portable media player category and it does that very well.

I will post a thorough review next week after I spend much more time with the Zune HD. If you have anything you want me to address, please leave a comment and I will put it in my in-depth review.

Topics: Microsoft

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.