This was an impulse buy for me, to be honest. I'd heard some reviews and details about the product on the podcast, and was intrigued, but had no real plans to buy one. Then a co-worker who had pre-ordered it on amazon decided he didn't want the thing and was going to return it, so on a whim I offered to buy it off him. I was actually a little nervous about the purchase, I already had a Zune 80, how much better could this be?
Boy, was I surprised. The first thing that caught my attention was the size. I didn't realize how small it was going to be. I have a pair of skullcandy earbuds that came with this soft cloth pouch for storage that I can slip my HD into, WITH the headphones. (In fact, i'm currently using it to hold my Zune until I can find a proper case I like enough to buy.) It's the perfect size to slip into my pocket, while still fitting snugly into the palm of my hand.
I was already using a Zune, so the menu system was familiar to me. Naturally, I completely ignored the guide booklets and dove straight into using the device. After I loaded all of my content onto the HD, it only took a couple of minutes flipping through the menus to figure out the controls. The touch controls were quick and smooth, requiring only feather-light strokes and taps to sail through long lists of content. Navigation was simple, with some nice subtle visuals as you navigate through that make the experience quite enjoyable. They added several features over the old Zunes that make jumping through content easy. The head of lists contain a small box that pops up a screen for jumping through your content alphabetically. Also, you can finally create and save playlists on the device itself, a feature that I thought was sorely lacking on previous Zunes.
The side of the device has a nice little button that will bring up the media controls no matter what you are currently doing. You can quickly pause, adjust the volume or skip tracks. Press the button again and you will switch back to whatever you were doing before, whether browsing the web, playing games or just flipping through your pictures. You can even access these controls while the screen is locked.
My favorite feature, I'd have to say, is the new main menu. It has all the same standards as in previous Zune, but if you tap the left edge of the screen, you get a series of quick lists for instant access to your content. If you have Music or a Podcast playing or paused, it appears at the top and you can hop to it with a simple tap. Below, you can find the Pins list. While viewing content (Podcasts, Albums, individuals songs, Radio Stations, web sites and I believe even pictures) all you have to do is touch and hold your finger down and you'll get an option to Pin it to this list for immediate Listening/Viewing. This section of the menu also provides you with a list of content you've used lately, as well as content that has been synced to the device most recently. Everything is displayed in nice little tiles that make it easy to find what you need right away.
I haven't actually used the HD Radio yet, so I'll just go ahead and skip this feature. Sorry.
The internet browser is smooth, with basic pinching for zoom and sliding for navigation. Pages load quickly and the text is crisp and easy to read. Pictures seem to be loaded at lower quality to help pages load, so they tend to get pixelated rather quickly if you try and zoom in on them. Also, the OSK feels a little cramped, especially if you're using it vertically. When you tilt the Zune horizontally you get a slightly larger Keyboard, but it still is a little awkward to use.
I downloaded the small handful of Apps that are currently available, but nothing really stands out. Weather, Calculator and some games. Most of the games don't really use the touch controls for anything serious, the only app I found I like is one called Goo Splat. Blobs slid down the screen, you poke them and they pop. Nothing special, but entertaining during downtime.
Lastly, I should really mention the OLED screen on this little baby. Wow, is it stunning. The colors are amazingly vivid and the blacks are actually black. This leads to some wonderful contrasting that really makes whatever you're viewing just stand out. The viewing angle on it is incredible as well. I can look at the screen nearly side-on and there's practically no loss in visual quality; you might as well be looking at a still photo instead of a screen.
In all, I'm quite satisfied with my purchase, and I'm really looking forward to where they take this. As an Xbox owner there's a lot I'm hoping they will do with the 360 Marketplace integration, as well as what they're going to end up doing with the Apps.
In the end, I'm going to settle on a score of 9.0/10. I can't find any genuine faults with this gadget, but I disliked the clumsy OSK on the browser and while I enjoy the size, I've had some friends who disliked the smaller screen. So I can't give it a perfect score. However, I recommend this device to anyone looking to purchase a music player, you won't be disappointed.