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Zune Q&A: All You Need To Know

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We asked, and you answered. After reading this, you'll be such an expert on the Zune, TV news programs will ask you on as a talking head. There's such a wide breadth of questions, which says to us everyone has their own concerns/uses for a portable music player. Here's everything you need to know about the Zune, in no particular order.


Q: If I send a regular MP3 without DRM to my friend, does the zune apply the "3 day 3 play" restriction anyway, or is my friend free to keep the song permanently?

A: Yes, the 3 day 3 play DRM is placed on every song, even if it's just a regular MP3.

Q: Does the Zune support Divx codec?

A: Nope, just WMV.

Q: How is the sound quality compared to the iPod?

A: Using both the included headphones and my Sennheiser 580s, I couldn't tell the difference. Maybe my ears are retarded.


If your question is featured today, you win! The prize? An answer to your question, by me. See them all after the jump.

Q: Does the Zune work with anyone else's "DRM'd" music or just microsoft? If no, will there be any way to make other paid-for music (like from napster) work?

A: No, it doesn't work with any other DRMed music shops. You could strip the DRM off of DRMed songs, then import those into Zune, but that's a grey area. And kind of a hassle.


Q: Is microsoft going to pay you back for zune to zune sharing?

A: Eventually. They're still working on it, so don't expect an announcement for a few months at least.


Q: Does the Zune support bookmarking (Must have for Audio Books).

A: No, you can't resume a song in the middle, even on audiobooks. And the Zune has no Audible support yet.


Q: Does the Zune have a mass storage mode? Can you drag and drop files onto it.

A: No. Thus, explaining why PlayStation 3s can't see it. Xbox 360s see it just fine, since they're kissin' cousins by Microsoft. No, you can't drag and drop files onto it because you can't see it in Windows Explorer. I don't see mass storage mode coming in a future update, but maybe Microsoft will get enough pressure to add it in.


Q: Does the Zune pause playback when the headphones are removed or external power is cut off?

A: Yes, if you remove the headphones the playback stops. Microsoft told me that if you remove the headphones after leaving the volume on super high, if you plug them in again the volume will revert to default settings. I couldn't' get this to work on my Zunes.

Q: Obviously the Zune has a bigger screen [compared to the iPod] but which screen is brighter? Sharper? Which one has better contrast?

A: Comparing the Zune against the 5G (I don't have a 5.5G, sorry), the Zune is brighter. However, the iPod looks sharper and has better contrast. They're both 320x240 resolution, so the Zune just blows up everything bigger. It looks nice, but not as sharp as the iPod.


Q: What, if any, integration with Xbox Live will there be, beyond simple connectivity to the Xbox 360?

A: None, as of right now. There may be WiFi connectivity later, but that'd require you to have a WiFi adapter for your Xbox 360 also.

Q: Will the Zune [be] used as a second "screen" as the PS3 and PSP are rumored to be used?

A: Most likely not. This generation Zune is just a music player. In the future, Microsoft may create a more game oriented Zune, but their KISS (keep it simple stupid) rationale would most likely prevent any 360 integration beyond just streaming media.


Q: Is the Zune capable of playing Windows Media Center recorded content?

A: Not at the moment, no, unless you re-encode those shows into WMV.

Q: Will the Live/.net accounts work with the zune? Will you have your own 'gamercard' like with xbox live?

A: Yes, the Live accounts will work with the Zune. You just have to log in with your same account, and you can use the same gamercard that you use on Xbox Live. You share the same Marketplace Points (money) between the two devices.


Q: Does the Zune work with the iPod cables, speakers, and adapters?

A: No. Zune's connector is smaller.

Q: Can you edit songs in the Zune [Software] including things such as album art, genre, album, artist etc?

A: Yes. You can edit all the metadata, and Zune will go out and fetch album art for you for ones you don't have.


Q: How long does the Zune take to Boot-Up?

A: About a second, second and a half.

Q: Some Mp3 players schuffle music oddly (clumps of tracks or not really random). Does the Zune?

A: Seemed pretty random to me.


Q: How does it handle playlists and directory structure?

A: Just normal "dumb" playlists instead of "smart" playlists. There's no directory structure.

Q: Will/Can the resolution be upgraded?

A: In the 2nd generation Zune? Probably.


Q: What if I want to just share two zunes between the same exact media library. Can I set up two owner relationships from the software, one to each zune?

A: Yes. Subscription songs ($15 a month) can be synced to two Zunes, whereas purchased songs can be synced to five Zunes. Your own songs should be able to be synced to as many as you want.

Q: Can you use a bands album art as a wallpaper theme?

A: You can use any picture as a wallpaper.


Q: Can the zune's landscape mode be used in either way, i mean can you set it so you can hold it with the conmtrols on the left side instead, for the lefties of the group.

A: Unfortunately not. Suck it lefties.

Q: Is the zune compatible to macs?

A: Nope.


Does the Zune charge with a USB cable like the ipod?

A: Yes, it charges while syncing with your PC.

Hows the durability?

A: Pretty scratch resistant. Definitely not fragile-feeling like the iPod.


Q: I have the 30GB video iPod, and purchased the PocketDok Line Out adapter because the audio was too distorted over the headphone jack. My friend has the Toshiba Gigabeat, but his sounds great - does the Zune benefit from this same Toshiba improvement?

A: I'd say so, since it's pretty much the same device.


Q: How's the video quality with the Zune? If you were to compare it to the iPod's video playback, which one would you say is better looking?

A: The Zune, because it's got a bigger screen—despite the fact that they're the same resolution.

Q: How are the default headphones? Are they worth it to keep or should I be making a headphone purchase day one?

A: Not bad, and you should try them out yourself to see if they're too big/small for your ear holes before you purchase new ones.


Q: If I manage to get myself a Zune over the Christmas holidays will the software work ok in Australia or will I be out of luck?

A: The software itself should work, but the store most likely will not.

Q: Does this mean the Zune will play my protected AAC files? (I hate music protection, but hey, sometimes you can only find that one song on iTunes) And on the flip side, will Zune not play all those random mp3s that I've moved here and there and everywhere? Particularly ones that I didn't pay for, even if it was a free download off of the artists website?

A: Protected AAC Files = No. Your own downloaded MP3 files = Yes.


Q: Does the Zune have gapless playback?

A: Nope, neither the Zune or the Zune Software has gapless playback.

Update: Cesar says there's gapless playback in the software. Either it's on all the time, or I'm blind, cause I can't find it in the options.

Q: Second, I am curious how the Zune handles albums that have an album artist that is different from the track artist. For example, on a DJ mix album, the DJ would be the album artist and the track producer would be the track artist.

A: Yes, there's a concept of "Album artist" and "artist" on there. So if you label it correctly, you can search/sort by either album artist or just artist. So to answer your question, yeah, it would work.


Q: Can the Zune record from your TV ?

A: Sorry, no can do.

Q: Do you know if there are any plans to make the Zune compatible with Macs?

A: Maybe someday (generation 2? 3?).


Q: The zune itself only supports a limited number of video codecs. Will the software automagically transcode the rest to wmv?

A: Yes, Zune software transcoded some of my podcasts that I downloaded via iTunes to WMV.

Q: The buttons! The back and play buttons on the Zune — are they actual buttons or are they like 3G iPod 'buttons' as they sorta look like?

A: They're actually buttons, and not touch-sensitive buttons. You gotta press them.


Q: Can you download pictures directly from your digital camera to the Zune? It would be great to not have to carry multiple SD cards on vacation.

A: It may be possible in the future to have an adapter that does that.

Q: While your testing out the Zune, have you seen or heard of support by the Zune for "Podcasts"?

A: Not in the software itself, but you can download podcasts manually and watch them on the Zune after importing/transcoding.


Q: XM? or general raido/ real-life recording?

A: No XM, just FM. And no FM recording.

Q: Does the zune come with the FM transmitter or do I have to fork out for a seperate device?

A: The FM in the Zune is just a FM receiver. You'll have to buy a transmitter separately.


Q: Hi, I see from some videos of the Zune interface that there seem to be different backgrounds for each function that you are using. Am I correct in thinking that the background for the start up screen is different from the background for the transfer screen and so on? If so, can you customize each background?

A: The background is the same for every screen, just faded/darkened when you're not on the main screen.

Whew. That was a lot of questions. If you still need to know more about the Zune, check out our Zune vs. iPod feature later today.