zune hd ui

I’ve had a bit more time to play with that Zune HD that I unboxed yesterday, and I think I’m going to have a love/mild annoyance relationship with this media player going forward. Here’s what I’ve noticed so far after using the Zune HD for about a day:


  • The user interface is incredibly slick and the animations are attractive without being particularly distracting.
  • The desktop Zune Marketplace software is excellent for arranging media, downloading podcasts, and purchasing media for download. I might keep using it even if I don’t decide to stick with the Zune HD as a portable media player.
  • The multitouch OLED display is bright, sharp, and vivid.
  • I like the way Zune Marketplace features are integrated with the user interface so that, for example, you can find related artists to the musician you’re listening to, and download photos and biographic information on the fly over a WiFi connection.


  • There are only three hardware buttons: Power, Media, and Home. None of these buttons will let you do things like pause, fast forward, or skip tracks without looking at the screen, because all of the playback controls require the touchscreen.
  • There’s no support for DiVX, or MPEG-2 or a number of other formats, for that matter. The Zune HD only supports WMV, H.264, and MP4/M4V files.
  • While the user interface is sleek, it’s not particularly customizable. I’ve been using a Windows Mobile PDA as a music player (among other things) for years, and while WinMo gets a lot of flak, the fact that you can choose your own media players is kind of awesome.

And while it’s awesome that the Zune HD lets you transfer your 720p videos to the device without transcoding them, the fact that it has a 3.3 inch, 480 x 272 pixel display that can’t actually display HD resolutions is a bit ironic. Since the model I’m using has only 16GB of storage space, and since my video collection is in DiVX, I’m tempted to just transcode a bunch of my 720p video files to QVGA H.264 files to save space and cram more media onto the Zune HD, which kind of defeats the purpose of having an HD-capable portable media player.

That said, if your media collection is already in the correct format and if you don’t crave hardware buttons or the ability to tinker further with the user interface, the Zune HD still packs an awful lot of wow factor. And once your media is on the device, the Zune HD really does a nice job of playback. I’m still hopeful that the App section of the Zune Marketplace will open up to include third party apps though. Right now, there are only a handful of apps including a calculator, weather forecast application and a few games.

You can check out my video overview of the Zune HD user interface after the break. It’s a little blurry because it turns out it’s kind of hard to shoot this kind of video with my digital camera. But it should give you a general idea of what the user experience is like.

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6 replies on “Day two with the Zune HD (software overview) – Video”

  1. OLED?

    I propose another test:

    1) Find some device with transflective LCD screen (most, but not all, Nokia phones have one, iPhone and iPod Touch also AFAIK, or for example all those old Palm PDAs)

    2) go _outside_ . You know, where portable devices such as those are very likely to be used often. Preferably on a sunny day – it’s quite common on Earth

    3) compare

    1. The OLED screen isn’t as bright outside, but it’s bright enough that I don’t have any trouble using it. I have the brightness set to high, and that makes it easy to see. I wouldn’t suggest watching a video on it while sitting outside, but then, if you’re sitting outside, I wouldn’t suggest watching a video anyway. The OLED screen not only looks great, but adds to the already impressive battery life. I’ve played games for hours on it while listening to music at the same time, then watched a 2 hour movie on my Zune without a need to recharge. Seems like with heavy use you can get about 7 hours out of it, and just listening to music will give you more than 10.

      1. Things is, constantly cranking up brightness (to 11! 😉 ) kinda works against the stated goal of OLEDs to prolong battery life (if that’s not much more than 10, it’s pretty bad actually – we would better get more definitive number); you don’t have to do it with transflective screens. Yes, the latter might not look as gorgous inside. Well, I look at portable defices with their stated usage pattern in mind. The deal with OLED on portables strikes me a bit like a scam with shiny surfaces (that look good only on shop shelf or in a device which isn’t actually touched) or cranking up saturation in TVs default settings, as shipped to shop; yeah, it will look much better than devices with transfelctive screens sitting beside it – _inside_ a shop.

        (well, that, and also some people actually don’t like when their screens practically _shine_ into their eyes like a nightlamp)

  2. I’ve had a Zune HD for a little over a month now and I have no trouble pausing or skipping through tracks without looking. Just press the media button, then either the top of the screen for volume up, button for volume down, middle for pause, or right/left to skip ahead/go back. The screen is big enough that it becomes pretty easy to know where to press.

    1. It would be really funny if justifications such as yours would catch on, especially among people that bashed iPhone for its lack of hardware keys 😉

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