For what feels like centuries, the iPod was considered the must-have music device. An elegant design and simple interface made even the sluttiest of fratboys fall in love.
But then came along Microsoft's Zune. Instead of a dainty, scratch-prone piece of MP3 china, the Zune is chunky and coated in spank-me-harder rubber. And the Zune was there for us with a shoulder to cry on during those nights we vented how the iPod lacked WiFi, FM, and a general understanding of "a woman's needs". Even if it only goes up to 30GB.
We appreciate that the Zune let's us hook up and share moments on trains or bathroom stalls, but we still crave the monogamy of iTunes DRM support. Hit the jump for our Frankenreview: A review culled from the bits and pieces of Pogue's NYTimes article, Mossberg's work at the WSJ, and opinions from our friends at Business Week and CNet. There's a lot to say, so we've sectioned off the writeup into categories on Design, Screen, UI, Software, and Sharing. And we've got all of our beautiful gallery shots after the jump. What are you waiting for? Jump on through!
"It can't touch the iPod's looks or coolness, but it's certainly more practical...won't get fingerprinty and scratched..."
"The hardware feels rushed and incomplete. It is 60% larger and 17% heavier than the comparable iPod."
"...it's a nice size and weight...neither too thin to hold nor too big to pocket..."
"...You'll want to scroll the circular controller at first impulse..."
"...it lacks the famous iPod scroll wheel, instead using a common four-way navigation pad..."
"...while the controls lack the elegant minimalism of iPod's scroll wheel they are well designed..."
"Scrolling accelerates as you press the top or bottom button, but the iPod's wheel is much more efficient..."
"The Zune's screen is taller than it is wide — unlike the iPod's — so you can see more of your lists without scrolling."
"It has three brightness settings and though the display is slightly washed out, it's colorful and bright enough for outdoor use..."
"...when videos or photos play, the screen image rotates, meaning you have to turn the player 90 degrees. And just as on the iPod, portrait-oriented photos are now shrunken..."
"...While it is three inches versus 2.5 inches for the iPod's screen, it uses the same resolution..."
"...many album covers look worse than they do on the iPod."
"...the interface is dark, clean, and stable. It's aesthetically pleasing and functional..."
"The software design is beautiful, simple and graced by brief, classy animations."
"...the entire interface is more colorful and visually satisfying than the iPod's."
"You can also select your own photo as the wallpaper or background for the device."
"...the black, gray, and orange hues of the Zune library software have a more modern look than the rather plain-vanilla iTunes, even though the basic layout is similar..."
"Microsoft's store doesn't sell TV shows, movies or audio books...the Zune store doesn't let you subscribe or download podcasts..."
"Even worse, to buy even a single 99-cent song from the Zune store, you have to purchase blocks of 'points' from Microsoft, in increments of at least $5..."
WINNER: iPod (err...iTunes)
"The big, whomping Zune news, though, is wireless sharing..."
"Sharing content by using ad hoc Wi-Fi is pretty cool, although it is limited to sharing within a range of 30 feet, and you can't share video..."
"Each song sent to your Zune from another Zune can be played only three times and is available for playing for only three days."
"Who'd build a Wi-Fi device that can't connect to a wireless network — to sync with your PC, for example? Nor to an Internet hot spot, to download music directly?"
"Zune is curiously lacking a very popular iTunes feature — the ability to view and to listen to another user's music library over a local network..."
WINNER: Zune (by forfeit)
iPod...by slight edge. Why? Because at the end of the day, most reviewers preferred the iPod, even if breaking down the features on paper makes them look pretty even. But if Apple vs. Microsoft means innovation above just shrinking the players down, we're all for it.
Size: 4.4 in. x 2.4 in. x 0.6 in. (h x w x d)
Weight: 5.6 ounces
Battery: Music, up to 14 hours (wireless off), up to 13 hours (wireless on); pictures, up to 4 hours; video, up to 4 hours
Charge Time: 3 hours; 2 hours to 90%
Size: 3.0 inches
Orientation: Vertical and Horizontal
Resolution: 320 x 240 pixels
Windows Media Audio Standard (.wma): Up to 320 Kbps, CBR and VBR, up to 48-kHz sample rate
MP3 (.mp3): Up to 320 Kbps, CBR and VBR, up to 48-kHz sample rate
AAC (.mp4, .m4a, .m4b, .mov): Up to 320 Kbps, Low Complexity (LC), up to 48-kHz sample rate
JPEG (.jpg): All resolutions (desktop software will automatically convert to 640x480 at sync time)
Windows Media Video (.wmv): Main Profile, CBR or VBR, up to 1.5 Mbps peak video bitrate, 320 x 240 pixels, 30 frames per sec., with Windows Media Audio up to 192 Kbps, 44.1 kHz, stereo audio; Simple Profile, CBR, up to 736 Kbps video bitrate, 320 x 240 pixels, 30 frames per sec., with Windows Media Audio up to 192 Kbps, 44.1 kHz, stereo audio.
Connectivity: 802.11 b/g
Range: Up to 30 feet