The Zune: A Review

Oct 3, 2008
Updated • Dec 1, 2012
Mobile Computing

Yesterday I finally got my Zune 120, all the way to Australia from America through Ebay thanks to Microsoft’s failure to release the Zune internationally at this point.

All I can say is it was completely worth it.

The bad thing for Microsoft is it’s taken 3 years to get the Zune to meet it’s initial expectations, the good thing is that I really don’t care because it’s a fantastic product. I have to admit I have never wanted an iPod primarily for the reason that I don’t want what everyone else has, and also because I don’t like iTunes.

The Zune software is perhaps Microsoft’s most under-appreciated work. I’ve been using it for a few months now, ever since the 2.5 release, and like it a lot, but it wasn’t till I actually had a Zune myself that the whole experience opened up and I realised how great the software is. What I love most about it is that Microsoft has not taken the approach of meeting the iTunes head-on, feature for feature. Instead they’ve worked on creating a great experience, so that even if the Zune lacks something Apple provides, users are willing to make the compromise.

I had to find and download a hack from somewhere to get access to all the Zune features and online services, but everything is working perfectly now.

The Zune itself looks great, feels great and has a awesome navigation pad which I prefer to the ‘Click Wheel’. It’s not quite as good for scrolling long song lists, but much better for skipping up or down by a couple songs at a time, something I find the Click Wheel not so good at. The screen however is horrible for attracting smudges and finger prints. Also the provided headphones are pretty crap, I replaced them immediately.

Anyway, up to this point I would be hard pressed to name another product which really wasbetter than the iPod, although a few did come close (Creative Vision:M and Gigabeat S series). The Zune 3.0 however I can honestly say provides a better experience and product than Apple and the iPod (classic).

Also Microsoft’s strategy of providing updates and new features to all Zune owners, no matter how old the product is really fantastic.


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  1. Rupert said on October 6, 2008 at 8:56 am

    Good point, I always forget that Google is our friend. I can see what you are doing now – doing something different from the plain ole review. Point taken, I stand corrected.

    I didn’t even know you can get a Zune 120 – I only see Zunes with 40GB and maybe 80GB hard drives available here in the UK, I guess I need to keep my eyes peeled harder, I certainly wanna not get another iPod.

  2. Josh said on October 5, 2008 at 1:27 pm


    I haven’t really listed features, but it was deliberate. A list of features is what you can find on any gadget website, just google it… what I was providing was my own experience of using the device myself.

    Perhaps you’re right though and I could have listed a few more reasons for why I liked the Zune so much. The primary reason for me though is the UI and software which is great.

    As far as comparing sound I’m not the right person for that kind of thing… I don’t have an iPod on hand and frankly wouldn’t be able to tell much difference between them anyway

    @Faust-C, yes if you purchase from the Zune store, although about 1/3 of the songs no longer have DRM… like iTunes.

  3. Tom said on October 3, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Zune is a great player, sad to have Wifi only fore sharing and connecting to the PC.

    Anyway, yeah i agree, divx is a must, they even got it on Xbox360, so what?

  4. Faust-C said on October 3, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    I agree w/ Rupert on this. Doesn’t the zune use DRM of some sort? Aside from that I use linux and even though apple doesn’t officially support linux, I’ve managed to get everything to work w/o any ‘hacks’ or downloading extra software. Anyways don’t feed the beast…

  5. BeautifulZune said on October 3, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    I’ve had a Zune 30 for almost a year now and love it. I tried an 80 out in the store and the squircle touchpad navigation is really great.

    DivX support would be great. I’d be happy if it supported any format that’s encapsulated in an AVI. The software won’t even convert them.

    Sound quality is far superior to iPods, even with the bundled headphones. The screen is really sharp too. Yes, it’s a fingerprint magnet, but what gadget isn’t these days. That’s what screen protectors and cases are for.

  6. Rupert said on October 3, 2008 at 9:33 am

    You don’t really say why the Zune is better than the iPod though. No description of features. All you say is you like the navigation pad more. Nothing about how it performs its actual role as an MP3 player. I find this so common with reviews this day and age. Nothing about the actual functions the item was designed to perform, but more about the personal feelings of the reviewer.

    What is the sound quality like, can you create playlists on the fly, what is the navigation of the albums like, what are the random playing functions like etc etc?

  7. Alek Davis said on October 3, 2008 at 7:51 am

    If not for the missing DivX support, Zune would’ve been a great media player.

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