I bought a Zune last week. Yeah, a Zune. Big woop. Wanna fight about it?
It wasn’t on my radar to get one, but I was buying some new computer hardware from NewEgg, and as I was checking out, it gave me that evil message, “if you buy another $100 worth of stuff, you’ll qualify for 6 months interest-free!” Of course then I had no choice. :)
This is the first MP3 player I’ve seen in a long time. I can report that portable MP3 players have come a long way since the Diamond Rio PMP300 I bought back in 1998. Back then it came with 32 MB of memory. That was enough to hold – maybe – one album of music at 128Kbps.
My new Zune is tiny in comparison to that Rio and has 8 GB of memory. That’s about 256 times more storage space, which will hold probably 200 CDs or about one third of my entire MP3 library that’s been growing steadily since 1998. Pretty amazing.
Okay so you’re probably wondering why I bought the much-maligned Zune instead of an iPod.
Mainly it’s because I’ve never liked the Apple business model of packaging unremarkable hardware and selling it for a premium. (Don’t tell John Hodgman, but Macs have basically the same hardware as PCs, if you hadn’t noticed.) They are like the Bose speakers of the computer world.
Additionally, I feel compelled to punish Apple for running the iTunes Store for so long with DRM-protected, crappy-quality 128Kbps songs*. Besides the moral objection anyone should have to DRM-protected media and inferior quality audio, I tried getting some DRM-protected music from Napster for a while and it was a pain in the butt. Now I buy MP3s exclusively from Amazon… no DRM, 256Kbps quality, and it’s the same price (or cheaper).
I’ve also heard anecdotally that Zunes sound better than iPods, which is a pretty major consideration for this audiophile. Never having laid a hand or ear on an iPod, I can’t confirm or deny the reports, but I do know that 256Kbps MP3s sound pretty good coming from this dinky little Zune with the default ear buds. (And yes, I can hear the difference between 128Kbps and 256Kbps.)
Also, the Zune was cheaper than the 8 GB iPod Nano at NewEgg. And there was a $10 off special on the blue one.
Anyway, I’m perfectly happy with the Zune. The biggest negative I can find in the Zune is that the lowest volume setting is just a smidge too loud. I wish it had one lower setting, like a 0.5. Most of the time I just want some faint background music to help me concentrate, but I still want to be able to hear people talking around me, and especially to me. Also, the battery doesn’t last through an entire work day for me… it died somewhere around the 7 hour mark. Not really a big deal for me, though, since I’m almost always near a USB port.
The Zune software is pretty cool, too. Simple and clean. (UPDATE: The software looks nice but the functionality is mediocre at best; see comments.) I’m having great fun with podcast subscriptions. They are perfect for the commute to and from work (and usually intolerable at any other time).
At some point I want to look into writing software for the Zune, which I believe is done with XNA Game Studio 3.0. I’ve been wanting to try some embedded programming for a while now.
* To be fair, iTunes announced in January 2009 that they will be moving exclusively to 256Kbps DRM-free songs. But you can bet they wouldn’t have if Amazon hadn’t forced their hand.