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REVIEW: Microsoft Zune

Zune

We’ve written a lot about the Zune Arts project, which integrates the animated artwork of some of today’s most talented artists with music from well-known and underground musicians.  You’ve probably heard of artists such as Gary Panter, Tokyoplastic and Friends With You.  And you’ve probably listened to songs from The Aliens, Lily Allen, Santogold and Goldfrapp.

Microsoft, which produces the Zune, then released Zune Originals.  These are laser-engraved MP3 players that are decorated with artwork from big names in the designer toy industry.  They include: Rolito, Sam Flores and TADO.

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I received an 8GB Zune to test out and see how it works.  I’d like to preface that by saying I primarily use Apple products (MacBook, iMac and several iterations of the iPod).  So I’d need to be convinced to give up my iPod Touch for the Zune.


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It appears that the Zune is competing with the iPod Nano.  They both are about the same size, storage-wise and physically.  The GUI is actually pretty “sharp”.  In additiona to storing and playing back music, videos and photos, the Zune has a few cool features.  There is an integrated FM radio, two games included and a link to the Zune marketplace.  It’s from here, if you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network, that you can purchase and download music straight to your Zune.  There also is a Zune Social option where you can share music and tastes with friends.  (I need some friends to test that one out)

While the actual player isn’t as sleek looking as an iPod, the Zune Pass might make up for that.  The Zune Pass can be purchased for $14.99 a month and is like Netflix for your MP3 player.  You get an unlimited number of downloads.  However, you can’t burn the songs to CD and once your Zune Pass expires…you can’t listen to those songs unless you buy them.

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Our Breakdown

I love that the Zune has teamed up with an unrelated genre of visual artists to help produce great music videos as well as lend their artwork to being laser etched on the player.  That sets them apart from other MP3 players on the market.

Negatives:

Boxy design; software doesn’t work with MacOSX; doesn’t work with previously downloaded iTunes content

Positives:
Built-in FM tuner; Zune Pass; Zune Social; Zune Originals (artist series MP3 players)

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