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Review: Hands On With Zune HD

Microsoft Is Thinking Differently

The Zune HD is an excellent piece of hardware, with some exemplary software included within it. It competes seriously with the iPod Touch in all ways except applications and keyboard typing, but considering the Zune app store will only have been open for fewer than two days when this article is published, it’s not that big a deal. What is important is that watching videos and listening to music is better, smarter, and more convenient than the previous Zune models and is on par with Apple’s interface.

Microsoft also sells a Zune accessory: a $90 dock with HDMI and optical output, which allows for the Zune to play 720p video on an HDTV. We tested the quality of both SD and HD content, and while the quality of the video will depend on your TV, we found it very satisfying to simply plug in the Zune, use the remote to quickly navigate through the specialized dock menu system, and select whatever music, videos, pictures, or radio stations we wanted. The dock, officially called the Zune AV and HD Dock, even comes with a 1990s style wired antenna.

You can also plug the Zune into your media center during a party and set a channel up, and if there’s WiFi in range, the Zune can play new music on the fly. The TV will display music information in a smart, sexy fashion, keeping the screen moving but not in a way to attract too much attention. It’s a very simple DJ system. And if you have an older Zune, the dock will work with those as well.

Neither the Zune software nor the Zune HD supports WAV files (nor AIFF or FLAC). There is no support for high-end audio files. Therefore, we were unable to test the Zune HD under a heavier workload of high-bitrate audio, but more importantly, anyone who has music in WAV files (a format to which many programs record directly) will have to change the audio format if they wish to put the music on either their Zune handheld device or background player.

From what we’ve seen, it’s apparent that Microsoft

For Zunepass subscribers, getting a Zune HD is a no-brainer.

In the end, we’ve found that Zune’s greatest success is how