It is now September 15th, and that means that you are now able to go and grab the Zune 4.0 update. Go ahead and do it, if you love music. The Zune.net site is still undergoing maintenance, but if you have the old version of the Zune player, just launch it and have it check for updates, and you’re golden.
One of the main gripes we’ve had with Microsoft as it pertains to the Zune platform is that they have stubbornly decided to keep it to a PC-only experience, leaving those of us who live in OS X out in the cold. Well, starting today, that changes. Kind of.
You see, the Zune Marketplace is now a part of Zune.net. Aside from having the largest audio and video podcast streaming directory, Zune now allows you to log in and listen to music from the Marketplace in any browser that supports Silverlight 3. Technically, Microsoft says that this experience is officially supported in Internet Explorer and Firefox, but we will have to give it a shot in Safari. Anyhow, the caveat here is that you can log in as a Zune Pass subscriber and stream music. This doesn’t solve the problem that those on a Mac have where they can’t sync their Zune hardware or download music. Still, though, it’s a step in the right direction, and a nice bonus for Zune Pass subscribers to be able to access and stream music, including Smart DJ playlists, on the fly. This basically turns any computer running IE or Firefox into a terminal for you to log in and crank those Zune tunes, and we like it.
For those wondering, any activities you do with Zune.net stream will also be reflected in your Zune account and Zune Card. How cool is that?
The wait for the big Zune refresh that a lot of us have been clamoring for is finally over. Today, the Zune HD launches, available from the Microsoft online store, Amazon, Best Buy, and others. Alongside that launch comes a much-improved Zune software and services package. That’s right, Zune 4.0 is here, and there’s lots to cover. Let’s dive in and take a look at all the major new features in Zune 4.0, as well as some of the smaller pieces of fit and finish that make this release shine, including the Zune Marketplace, Zune PC software, Zune on Xbox Live, and Zune.net.
From everything we’ve seen as it pertains to the Zune 4.0 software, this update is all about making music more enjoyable to listen to, easier to discover, and easier to manage. In addition, you get movies in the Zune Marketplace now (both rental and purchase,) Xbox Live integration, and a bunch of other features that make Zune 4.0 one of the best pieces of media management software that we’ve used to date.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Zune 4.0 is the Quickplay screen. Similar to the Quickplay area on the new Zune HD, the Zune desktop software gets similar treatment. Here you’ll be able to pin specific content to the area, get a look at new content you’ve recently added to your library, pull up recently played content, and also get direct access to your Smart DJ mixes. Smart DJ, you say? Yes, read on.
The Zune HD launches today, and we know a bunch of you are considering picking one up, but want to know how it stacks up agains other items like the iPod touch, and even the older hard drive based Zune 120 (since they’re all on clearance now.) We’ve taken the liberty of putting together a size comparison gallery that puts the Zune HD up against those very items. Yup, check out our Zune HD size comparison gallery for all the goods.
Read More | Zune HD size comparison gallery
Gallery: Zune HD size comparison gallery
That’s right, y’all. It’s Zune HD day, and Microsoft’s newest portable PMP is ready to make its debut. Of course, we’ve got your hook-up, and have put together an unboxing gallery looking at the Zune HD, as well as everything else in the box. We must say, we were definitely stoked about this. For gadget lovers and lusters, the Zune HD is an adrenaline rush, what with its thin profile and gorgeous screen. Be sure to check out the full Zune HD unboxing gallery for all the goods.
Gallery: Zune HD unboxing
We will of course have a Zune HD review coming for you as well, but since Microsoft opted to give us review units that wouldn’t work until the Zune 4.0 software update was available, that’ll have to wait a bit. We don’t wanna go singing the praises of (or totally trashing) a device until we’ve had some legitimate time to play with it while fully functional, thank you very much. But hey, if you like the pictures, then be sure to also check out our Zune HD size comparison gallery as well.
Read More | Zune HD unboxing gallery
Gallery: Zune HD unboxing gallery
While not as exciting when the Apple Store online goes down, you should still be aware that Microsoft has taken all Zune services down in preparation for the launch of the Zune 4.0 software, and the release of the Zune HD tomorrow. We are guessing things will be functional again around midnight tonight. In fact, you may wanna stop by Gear Live around that time as well. Just sayin’.
One things we’ve been wondering today, admidst all of the Apple It’s Only Rock and Roll event news, is how Microsoft was feeling, especially as it pertains to their Zune business, which is set for a major overhaul in six days. We got in contact with a Microsoft spokesperson, and asked them about what they thought of the new iPod and iTunes announcements. Here’s what they had to say:
Since our debut, Zune has offered a different kind of end-to-end digital entertainment experience that includes wireless MP3 players, a robust online store, music community and innovative software features that help users easily find the music and videos they love.
The entertainment experience for consumers hasn’t changed that much after Apple’s announcement today. Our point of view has always been that people want to be entertained, and they want a better way to watch and listen to the digital entertainment they love. We’re interested in getting you your content where you want it in rich, exciting ways. We look forward to sharing more on September 15th.
Okay, so Zune is all about music and videos - not games, video recording, and all that other stuff. We get it, and we like the focus. What we don’t like, though, is how Microsoft allowed Apple to steal their thunder by announcing the new line-up way after Microsoft announced the Zune HD, followed up by Apple launching the new iPods a week before the Zune HD hits stores.
In the meantime, if you’re a music fan looking for a new music player, we say wait until the fifteenth. What you see come out of the Zune camp may surprise you. All of you. I’ve already said too much.
We were able to spend some quality time with the Zune HD a couple of days ago, and we put together this video walkthrough of the interface on the device. Unfortunately, we weren’t connected to Wi-Fi, so we weren;t able to show web browsing, downloading from the Marketplace, or Social, but this gives you a really good idea of what to expect when you get pick up your Zune HD (available for pre-order now) come September 15th.
Our favorite feature? I’ll probably be using the pinned items on the side quite a bit, especially for the recently synched stuff. Quick access to things like that have been much needed on touch devices. A runner up would have to be the quick scroll in the music browser. Again, it saves you on just quickly swiping a bunch of times, hoping to get to the right spot.
All in all, we’re impressed. Of course, we will have a full Zune HD review when we get our own device. For now, be sure to read up on everything we know about the Zune HD.
If you couldn’t tell, we are just a little excited about the impending launch of the Zune HD, especially now that we’ve learned of its attractive price point. It’s never too early to start thinking about the accessories you might want to purchase alongside a device, so we wanted to fill you in on a few Zune HD accessories that are available for pre-order. The Zune HD AV Power Pack at $50, and the Zune HD AV Dock for $90. Here is a little information about each of them:
Zune HD AV Dock (Left in photo)
This all-in-one package enables your Zune HD player to charge sync and play supported 720p HD videos on your HDTV. Send music and HD Radio reception to your home audio system and control it all via a wireless remote.
Includes dock, three inserts (one for each Zune model), wireless remote, AC adapter, HDMI cable, and AV output cable. Zune HD player sold separately.
Compatible with: Zune HD (32 & 16), Zune 120, Zune 80, Zune 16, Zune 8, and Zune 4.
Zune HD Power Pack (Right in photo)
Connect your AV cable to your docked Zune HD to play music, HD Radio, and audio podcasts through your home audio system. The HDMI cable connects your docked Zune HD to HDTVs to view movies and videos. (Zune HD player required for HD video and HD Radio reception; sold separately. Zune HD AV Dock sold separately.)
Includes AC adapter, HDMI cable, and AV output cable.
Compatible with: Zune HD (32 & 16), Zune 120, Zune 80, Zune 16, Zune 8, Zune 4.
There’s also the Zune HD Premium Car Pack, for those of you who want to listen while on the go. Hey, the HD Radio alone might be reason enough to go that route.
That’s right, Microsoft has finally let the cat out of the bag on all the Zune HD info we’ve been craving, and we’ve got the full scoop for you right here. First and foremost, the Zune HD goes on sale on September 15, and will be available in 16GB and 32GB size capacities. The two units are identical in every way, other than storage capacity, so let’s run down some of those specs.
- Built-in HD Radio receiver
- 720p HD video output through a premium dock (costs extra)
- OLED touchscreen: 3-3-inches, 16:9, scratch-resistant glass
- Built-in 802.11b/g Wi-Fi
- Web browser
- NVIDIA Tegra low-power HD processor
The Onyx Black 16GB Zune HD will sell for $219.99, while the Platinum Silver 32GB model will sell for $290 - compare that to the $299 and $399 prices for the 16GB and 32GB iPod touch, respectively. If you aren’t down with black or platinum, wait until September 15, and you’ll be able to pick from five other colors through the Zune Originals program. We’ve got even more specs for you after the cut, but if you’ve heard all you needed to hear and want to pre-order the device immediately, head on over to Amazon where you can find the 32GB Silver Zune HD, as well as the 16GB Black model.