83
Global
Score
There's a lot to like about this in spite of a few flaws.
83

There's a lot to like about this in spite of a few flaws.

How we score

The Engadget Score is a unique ranking of products based on extensive independent research and analysis by our expert editorial and research teams. The Global Score is arrived at only after curating hundreds, sometimes thousands of weighted data points (such as critic and user reviews).

Engadget Review

Zune HD review

When we broke news and images of the Zune HD back in April, we were more than a little excited. There had been talk -- and rumor -- of a widescreen, touchscreen Zune for some time, and seeing the fruits of Microsoft's labor made it clear that the company had done its homework. As time wore on and we reported on the official announcement, confirmation of NVIDIA's awesome Tegra chip inside, and news that the Zune Marketplace would extend into Xbox Live, we were downright giddy at the possibilities. Finally the much-anticipated, heavily lusted after micro-slab has been brought to market -- and it's not just the unit itself. Along with the release, we're seeing new desktop software, the Zune brand move towards a connected experience for Windows computers, and the expansion of the Zune Marketplace and ecosystem -- replete with applications designed just for the Zune HD interface. So the time has come for the Engadget review. Does the Zune HD finally match up with Microsoft's ambition, and can it stand up to the heat and ubiquity of the competition? Read on for all the answers.

Pros
  • Gorgeous new UIResponsive touchscreenZune Pass
Cons
  • Limited beyond music and video playbackUnclear roadmap for applicationsNo Mac compatibility
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Scores

Engadget

Not yet scored
 

User Reviews

100
Fallenarms3
In a market where every new 'PMP' is really a MID/UMPC hybrid (and...read more
90
clindhartsen
To be quite honest, the difference between and iPod Touch and a ZuneHD is that...read more
100
PiroThePyro
I will admit, I was extremely excited to pick mine up last Tuesday (32GB Platinum),...read more
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Score Breakdown

 
84
Average user Score

Media support

79
 

Video quality

88
 

Battery life

92
 

Sound quality

95
 

Portability

98
 

Capacity

87
 

Ease of use

92
 
 
100
Fallenarms3
In a market where every new 'PMP' is really a MID/UMPC hybrid (and new acronyms are developed every day), it seems like the music player has been left in the dust. Despite the technological advancements of modern devices, no real media player truly offers anything too much more advanced than my free-on-contract featurephone. Companies chasing the prize for the best mobile application experience have simply used the Music Player as a stepstool to fuel other goals. Not so with Zune. It is evident that the Zune Team really loves music. They've focused their device on it. Sure, there is the touted HD Video playback, but to me that feels more like a feature added on to the base, and that base is arguably the best media experience available on a portable device. Part of this is the software on the device. One of my favorite features of the HD is that it downloads bios, pictures, and related music links for every recognized artist in your collection to the player itself. In many cases, this feature has provided me my first real look at the face behind the music I listen to and love. Quick access to each artist's biography lets you understand even more how your music came to be. All of this is part of a pretty simple idea, but it adds so much more depth to the music experience. Another excellent feature is the Quick Play menu, located to the left of the main menu, from which you have fast access to your favorite media. Zune continues its dedication to Radio as a music tool, expanding this feature to include higher-quality HD radio-- a first for this kind of device. The HD also adds many less flashy but extremely useful media management tools, like deleting files from the device and creating playlists on-the-go (which, until now, was another feature my phone had over many of the market's big players). Other aspects of the Zune's amazing music experience reside in the rest of the Zune ecosystem. The most notable feature is the Zune Pass-- a $15 a month subscription which allows you to listen to basically all of the music on the Marketplace and keep 10 songs a month. Within the desktop software, you have Smart DJ playlists, which will pair an artist or album of your choice up with compatible music tailored to fit your tastes-- and coupled with a Zune Pass, it will pull such music from the entire Marketplace. It's possibly the best way to discover music out there. The Zune HD does offer these advancements to the oft-ignored digital music experience, but that doesn't mean it's a media-only player. Included is a capable internet browser and a small catalog of good time-waster games and apps with some utility (a calculator and weather app). I just focus more on the music because people need to understand that the Zune HD is essentially and foremost a music player, not a portable computer. But it is important to note that no Zune product is set in stone. The brand has a history of pushing huge feature updates in new firmware downloads. The Zune Team also has a reputation of listening to its customers. It may soon pass that the HD expands its repertoire to include a full-fledged portable application experience and a better-featured browser-- it certainly has the hardware capability. In fact, the device itself has so much potential it's hard to imagine it staying as it is. If the Zune Team puts as much effort into these pursuits as it did with media playing capabilities, the HD will easily be the best portable device on the market. For now, though it comes down to a simple question: what is more important to you, media or applications? If it's the former, then the Zune HD is your best bet. If it's the latter, well... wait a few months, and it might be that too.
 
90
clindhartsen
To be quite honest, the difference between and iPod Touch and a ZuneHD is that the ZuneHD's actual focus is the music. From the general browsing, to the point that the tied in Zune Pass + Wireless makes it easy to find new artists, not to mention pick up on ones that might not even be that large just yet. The UI of the device is rather nice to be honest, a bit more bold than the iPod, but also with a bit more character with the automatic screensaver with scrolling text, plus each artist's information being only a few finger points away. The device can be synced with your computer's library wirelessly, once you set it up, which makes it almost seemless once you get into the home, Just plug the device into a dock or sync cable attached to electricity, and the device with sync automatically after a small amount of time, or you can just sync via. Settings > Wireless > Sync with PC. To be honest, Apple may have cornered this market early, but Zune is one of the many signs that Microsoft is getting their ship in order. Apple should watch out, because Redmond is coming for them and coming with quality.
 
100
PiroThePyro
I will admit, I was extremely excited to pick mine up last Tuesday (32GB Platinum), and while my excitement wore off quickly, my love for this device has not. Hardware: When you open the box, the first thing you notice, is how small it actually is. I think that the size is perfect, not too big, not too small. Second, the build quality seems unparalleled in nearly any device I have seen or handled. Third, it is beautiful. Microsoft made some extremely intelligent design choices with the textures and material used to make this device. Unlike some fruit based PMP's, the textures used do not easily show scratches or fingerprints (except for the screen), and give it a strong industrial look. The buttons are all sturdy and usable, and the screen material is very nice. The screen is absolutely gorgeous... at full brightness. It looks ok at low and pretty good at medium. Audio sounds a bit better than my Zune 30, but its enough that i notice. Software: Coming from a black Zune 30, the interface felt like moving to a new home that was laid out similar to yours. It is nearly perfect i would say, but is super responsive and slick and cool as ice. The media discovery and slideshow features are great, and you can really see Tegra at work in these cases. Faults: I have two points that dropped it down from a 10 to a 9.9. First, the side button. It is not a volume rocker like i thought. It is useful haw it brigs up controls, and i like how it does so even when the device is locked, but i would have preferred a button on side, and a rocker on the other. Second, on the now playing screen, the Shuffle, Repeat, and Favorite buttons should have been replaced with Back, Play/Pause, and Next. They should have been accessible through another menu when pusing the control button or such. Other: This is a media player first and foremost, and excels at being one I did not include the web browsing or or applications into account in this review because they are mere addons to me. No, the browser is not better than mobile Safari, but i don't need it to be. However, i do find it sufficient for quick browsing, and handles most sites extremely well. I never have needed any real apps, but when 3D games come out which take advantage of Tegra, that will be a whole different story.
 
100
jerresand
The user interface is optimal and together with the music listening experience together with a Zunse pass, makes you not miss the apps at all. Use an iPhone or something for that. This is a great podcasting and music listening device. What i am missing is the possibility to scrobble my tracks to last.fm, but I guess that is coming. The device is much smaller than you probably think,based on the earlier Zunes, it is ridicolously thin and has an amazing OLED screen that looks great in any angel. Even if it is a bit small for movies etc it still works fine.
 
100
tatsumaki
Only very minor bits keep the Zune HD from being perfect in every way. Some are firmware correctable (addition of video and podcasts in the on-device Marketplace, expanded audio codecs), others are, unfortunately, not (lack of Bluetooth, stronger battery life). But one thing is definitely for sure, MS hit one out of the park with the Zune HD. The software is, quite possibly, the most elegant I've ever used. It just flows naturally, the way you'd expect it to. Certain advanced functions require foreknowledge, but simple navigation is the stuff of Minority Report. The Tegra processor keeps pace with all of the UI's visual goodies too, slowing down only slightly at rare moments. Audio quality is stellar. Paired with a headphone amp and a great set of cans, you'd be hard pressed to find anything that sounds better. The screen is gorgeous and displays deep, rich, vivid colors. No issues can be found with either audio or video playback that are worth mentioning. The Zune Marketplace with Zune Pass is nearly unbeatable for keeping your content fresh. Apps, while sparse, are starting to become more abundant and are well fleshed out. The browser may be the weakest part of the package, but it does the job in a pinch. In my endless search for the perfect PMP, I think I've found my hero device. Viva la Zune!
 
90
soren121
Without a doubt this is one of the best purchases I've ever made. It's sleek, small, light, and packs a punch with its Tegra processor. I got a 16GB red HD from the Zune Originals site and have been loving it since.--Music-------------------Music playback is phenomenal. Not only is the interface very well designed, but the audio quality sounds amazing.--Video-------------------Video also looks amazing on the 3.3" OLED display. Compared side-by-side with the newest iPod touch it blows the touch's backlit LCD out of the water. I just wish it had a higher pixel density.--Radio------------------I can't tell you anything about how good the HD radio sounds, since I'm unfortunate enough to not have any HD stations here, but I can tell you that FM reception and quality is fairly good for a portable device.--Marketplace----------Also a little disappointed here; I was hoping you could also get videos directly on the HD, but alas, Microsoft didn't include it. Music browsing and buying is pretty straightforward. You can also download apps straight off the Zune.--Social------------------I hope you have friends with Zunes. I don't.--Podcasts--------------Separate sections for audio and video podcasts, nothing special.--Internet Browser----Oh, boy. When I got my Zune, the browser was beyond unusable. Pages took excruciatingly long lengths of time to load and render, and on top of that the portrait AND landscape virtual rds sucked, plus the built-in Bing search looked and worked like garbage! Thankfully, everything improved with the 4.3 firmware update. Pages loaded much faster, and the landscape leopard was stretched out to the edges of the screen for more space between keys. The Bing search coincidentally rolled out a new version of their mobile site, which looks and works much better.I still wouldn't say the browser is better than, say, the iPod touch's browser, since after all it is based on IE6 CE, but it's a fine browser that will work for quick searches and blog updates, etc.
 
80
fourblades
As a music device this was very useful. With the help of Zune Pass, I really love this device as I can stream music without filling up the device. This could also do videos which I like but watching in the small screen feels inadequate. It's better to just watch the videos on my desktop or if I plug it in the cradle I got for this device. It can do multitouch with photos but it's no fun when you want to zoom in really close as you'll notice that the quality is reduced. It has some apps that are pretty good but not as big as what they've been doing with WP7. Browser is sufficient but not the best. It is too hard to use the keyboard in portrait even with my tiny fingers. Wifi seems to perform nicely with home network. Certain features here I actually wish they kept in the WP7 eco-system like the tiles on the left panel is grouped (i.e. new, pinned, recent), and has a big icon of what's running music wise. Also liked that the right panel is grouped too using text only. Also a small visual feature I liked is when you tilt the device at the home screen you actually see the tiles and text slightly moving with the motion.
 
100
zybch
This device is fantastic. The only drawback is that many of the online and marketplace features simply aren't available outside the US, and as an Aussie this means I an denied many things that I long to be able to do. Hopefully MS will realize there is a world outside US borders and let me use their outstanding player to its full capability in the near future, oh, and they HAVE to get a 64Gb version out. 16/32 gigs just aren't enough in this day and age, and I find my older Zune 120 accompanying me on longer trips and commutes.
 
90
Kale
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. - Kale 9/24/2009
 
90
Sweed
This device is absolutely stunning. Real metal and very durable so you don't have to worry so much about scratching it like You would with an Ipod (which are made of a very scratch-able metal.) 2 days ago I accidentally tripped on it's cable which had it flying and hitting my wall very hard and slamming down on my table and then off the other wall and finally on the ground. the device was unharmed. not a single scratch. (Note: I do have a screen protector on it, but that is all) just to comment on a few of my points above, The desktop software isn't really complicated at all, but It's only available on Windows(There are no alternative methods whatsoever for Linux). also, by default it uses alot of eye candy. On a low end computer you will have to disable this or have a very laggy experience. I have only tried MP3 music files on it, so I wouldn't know if other formats like aac or flac would work. hopefully it would convert the format to a playable one like wma, but I haven't tried. It does convert videos, but I have very few video formats on my computer and wouldn't know if it supports every format. My only real want with this device is for it to be available in a higher capacity to fully take advantage of Zune Pass. I know there are higher capacity zunes, but the Zune HD is so much more than those devices, I don't just want a high capacity zune, I want a Higher capacity Zune HD