A review of the Zune 2! A Look At The Past

Relevant background

We know that this is one is almost ancient now, but it is so good that it still deserves to be mentioned today. The 80GB Zune 2 by Microsoft is the second generation hard drive based player in the Zune mp3 player line. Building on popular features from the first generation Zune player such as WiFi sharing, an FM tuner, and a large display for better media viewing. The Zune 2 line launched 2 months after Apple refreshed their iPod line with the Touch and Classic.

Out of the box

After I was able to successfully find a Zune 80 (which was admittedly harder than I expected as there was a shortage) the first thing that jumped out at me was the design of the packaging. The box was very sleek and looked very appealing, with the signature orange to pink Zune gradient on the bottom.

One thing I found very interesting was Zunes decision to not include an installation CD in the box (the box was too small to fit a CD anyhow). This means after opening the box I found that in order to update and sync my new mp3 player I had to download and install the Zune software from the internet. Now for me this was not a problem at all, but I can imagine that there are people out there that don’t have access to the internet all the time to this could be a major inconvenience.

Physical Impressions

There was a lot of strong opinions about the appearance of the original Zune 30GB models. Many people really liked the refreshing difference in styling that the Zune had in comparison to the iPod, but just as many people were claiming that the Zune was the ugliest mp3 player they had seen. It seems Microsoft decided to take a safer route when they designed the look of the second generation Zune players. With a sleek matte black finish on the front and a brushed aluminum backing the Zune 80 is easily the best looking portable media player I have ever seen, really.
Zune red
The large 3.2″ screen is ideal for viewing movies and video podcasts, or navigating its silky smooth menus.

Retroactive Firmware Update!

Probably the most impressive thing that Microsoft did when they released their second generation Zunes is to also release the new device firmware retroactively for the original Zune 30 owners. What does this mean? This means that early adopters of the Zune 30 get all the software and firmware upgrades from the Zune 80 on their existing Zunes! To my knowledge I have never heard of any other companey releasing updates like this before. Essentially this gives the older Zune 30’s the same functionality as the new Zune 80.

Functionality

The menu system on the new Zune firmware is really smooth and a pleasure to use. It builds on the look and feel from the original firmware while giving it more stability and decreasing load times.

With that in mind the firmware is very similar to the original firmware with a few key additions/changes.

Wireless syncing to your computer library

A feature that many people wanted on the original firmware, but it seemed that Microsoft was deaf to their calls for wireless syncing, but no more! This is by far the biggest functionality addition to the Zune. There are two ways to initiate a wireless sync; it will automatically sync when connected to a Zune dock or wall charger. You can initiate a sync within the Zune menu manually whenever you are in WiFi range.

Podcast Support

Here is another feature much requested, podcasting build into the software. Podcasting is a feature that when paired with wireless transfer makes this player the ultimate internet content player. For example: daily news podcasts wireless transferred to your Zune automatically each morning before you wake up. The possibilities are endless with these combinations.

Summary

The second generation Zune by Microsoft seems to have hit the nail on the head this time around. With built in WiFi and an FM tuner, the Zune has added features that give it the edge over apples latest product line. Nearly every feature has been updated, and nearly every bug has been stomped out. The Zune 80 is, in my opinion, the best portable media player in its price range.

My recommendation: Still a great product that does not age with time. We hope Microsoft can continue with this line and product some awesome new Zune’s that will compete with the top dogs!

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One comment

  • The Zune software was great and I loved how it had all the management software for the device. For example, the full media player application with a library, an interface to the Zune Marketplace, and one of the first media streaming servers. It was a great phone.

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