A Zune HD in 2017

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Having found a Zune HD in near-perfect condition online for 30$, I figured this was too awesome a deal to pass, so I now own one 🙂

I did have a Zune 30 about a decade ago and this improves on it in (nearly) every way.

Some impressions of it so far:

– The hardware design is truly beautiful, if you think about the fact that it appeared at the same time as the 3rd gen iPod Touch or (in my opinion its more direct competitor) the 5th gen iPod Nano, I really think it out-Appled Apple.

– One hardware decision does truly baffle me, though: what the hell were they thinking with button+touchscreen volume controls? I don’t recall a single device that I’ve ever owned that could play music and didn’t allow you to change the volume in some hardware-only manner. Crazy!

– Sound quality is competent, or at least I have no complaints using my 30$ earbuds. 

– Screen is only 480×272, but OLED. It looks quite good given the dark-themed Zune interface, but switching to the Samsung S7 in my other pocket exposes a rather glaring difference 🙂 Again, though, given that its context in 2009 was an iPhone 3GS with a larger screen that ran at 480×320, it must have been pretty awesome for its time.

– I still think the Windows Zune software is one of the best (if not the best) personal music management solution out there, so using it even in 2017 is still an excellent experience. Since subscribing to Google Play Music I had moved on from a personal mp3 collection, but figured the “Rolling Stone Top 500 Songs Of All Time” would be a nice pack to try out. Getting album art for most of it and syncing it took less than an hour, good stuff. 

– It is apparently one of only 2 portable players ever released (the other one is a Best Buy house brand one 😀 ) that support HD Radio and amazingly there are 4 such stations here in Romania. The “HD” name is a real mistake, though, since in this case it stands for Hybrid Digital with no enforced quality difference over regular FM. The format supports things like surround sound and album art, but they are completely optional and as such not used over here in FM/DAB-country. It’s funny how when the signal starts dropping out, instead of the FM static you hear things more akin to a CD skipping 🙂

– Formatting a Zune in 2017 leads to a fun process in which it wants to reload the firmware from a Microsoft server, which of course no longer exists. Thanks to the wonderful people on Reddit, a firmware dump, a localhost web server and a HOSTS file modification later, I was sorted.

Overall, with battery life a solid 30ish hours, I might get more than just novelty value out of this device, with usage on planes/trains so that I don’t drain my phone’s battery a strong possibility.

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