Comparing the Zune HD to the iPod Touch isn’t really fair

Tue, Sep 15, 2009


The Zune HD hit store shelves earlier today, and I myself had the opportunity to play with one for a little bit.  While everyone is busy comparing the Zune HD to the iPod Touch, the comparison seems a bit misplaced.  The first thing I noticed about the Zune was how small it was relative to the Touch.  Not only is the screen smaller, but the entire device is noticeably “shrunk” when measured up against the Touch.  Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing by itself, but one of the key selling points of the Touch is its large 3.5 inch screen which makes viewing movies a bearable, if not enjoyable, experience.  In that respect, size wise, the Zune HD is almost like a hybrid between the iPod Touch and the iPod Nano.

And speaking of screens, the Zune HD’s OLED screen definitely impressed me.  It looked extremely bright and vibrant, with videos that seemingly jumped off the screen.  In terms of the UI, the Zune HD was somewhat disappointing given all of the hype and resources Microsoft has put behind its development.  The homepage background was black, with white text designating the various categories (Movies, Photos) users could choose from.  Not only that, but the multi-touch on the device seemed relatively unresponsive compared to other multitouch products out on the market such as the iPhone and the Palm Pre.

But chief among the Zune HD’s missing features is an app store.  And even without an app store, the Zune HD is still missing some pretty basic apps that came standard on the iPhone even before Apple rolled out its iTunes App Store last summer.  For instance, the Zune HD doesn’t come with a calendar app, a weather app, a maps app, a stocks app.. hell, it doesn’t even come with a built-in email program!  As it stands now, the number of apps available for the latest Zune hardware coming out of Redmond is 9.

Microsoft is touting the Zune HD as a device that focuses on music, but the fact of the matter is that dedicated music players are a thing of the past.  While a market for that sort of device undoubtedly remains, the next major battleground will be among multi-purpose mobile devices, and in that respect, the Zune HD falls far short.

And one more thing – the Zune HD also lacks external speakers, meaning that if you want to hear any sort of sound, it’s gotta always be through headphones – a fact which might make game play (if it ever truly arrives on the device) somewhat lackluster.



10 Comments For This Post

  1. DP Says:

    Thanks for the comparison. I did not realize that the Zune has no speaker no calendar, and email (as yet). These are important items for me.

  2. Jarod Says:

    So in other words, its the same POS as the original targeted at the casual idiot at your local best buy huh? lollll

  3. Paul Johnson Says:

    “In that respect, size wise, the Zune HD is almost like a hybrid between the iPod Touch and the iPod Nano.”

    Now you know why the Nano was upgraded with a camera–to compete with what Apple knew was coming from the Microsoft 3G Zune–and the iPod Touch was not. The iPod Touch has many features that are only a future dream for the Zune HD.

    Ars Technica’s review confirmed what Dan Dilger said about the OLED display — it is very difficult to read in outdoor sunlight.

    Reading product reviews on the web is very frustrating — so much is left out or fudged, and they are seldom edited to reflect product problems that arise after the product has been on the market for a while.

  4. Jocca Says:

    The Zune HD should not be compared to the iPod Touch because it is more akin to the iPod line with its dedicated music and multimedia capabilities. The new iPod touch does Skype phone call wonderfully. I have tried it and I can tell you that it is more akin to an iPhone than anything else on the market. It is a very capable pocket computer and can even be turned into interesting musical instruments.

  5. Paul Johnson Says:

    In evaluating the nature of the comparison, it’s also important to remember that Microsoft is willing to take huge losses on hardware in order to gain market share (XBox 360) , so the $289 price of the Zune HD, which puts it close to the iPod Touch in price, may well come down to something a lot closer to the Nano’s $149 after 6-8 months of slow sales and after the NAND shortage starts to ease.

  6. Alan Smith Says:

    If people compare the Zune to the Xbox; well, then lets talk about the Xbox failure rates. I read that it was somewhere in the 25%, 33%, 50% range. Any one of those numbers implies a very faulty product. Will the Zune fail at just a high rate?

    In the PC World article, the author commented that maybe by next year MS and Apple will be side by side in products. FAT CHANCE. MS has to have Apple to copy. Without Apple they do not know what innovation is.

    The Zune is dead long live the iPod.

  7. iphonerulez Says:

    The marketing ads for the Zune HD are going over very well. I like the one about the white duck and Yogi Berra. Yogi asks about some new Microsoft product called the Zune HD and the duck walks in yelling “App-lack, App-laaaaaaack!”

    That was a freaking riot since it was so appropriate.

    The Zune HD has no apps. “App-lack, App-laaaaaaack.

    Like Steve Ballmer was shouting. No developers, no developers, no developers.

  8. jalamdhara Says:

    FYI OLED is 100% emissive. Which means its absolutely worthless in daylight. It’s great in a dark room though 🙂 Now don’t get me started on the blue OLED light aspect of their RGB spectrum.


  9. Don Says:

    The OLED has to be black. Because it’s emissive, the more color and light it gives off, the more it drains the battery. By making the background black it uses less energy. The new Sony Walkman, like the Zune HD, also has the black background to save the battery: they’re both victims of OLED fever. According to Apple Insider, “Showing a white background, OLED consumes as much as 300% of the power of an LCD. Any colors that rely upon those those fragile blue pixels are particularly power inefficient.”

    As jalamdhara points out, it will be worthless in daylight. Did you only try it in the store? Was it in a brightly lit area? Outside they’re going to be disasters. I hope you’ll report their return rate from dissatisfied customers. My guess is that the MS equation this year is that Vista is to computer as Zune HD is to MP3 player.

  10. BipartisanTechnofreak Says:

    It seems to me that you guys are a bunch of chickens, clucking and hiding behind the iPod as the Zune HD kicks tail. You cite the lack of apps, right now, apps are being created for the HD to rival the iTouch. You cite the OLED screen being dark, I own an iTouch, and it can’t get any worse than that, lemme tell you. Let’s put some other stats on the board. The HD has hi-def radio, which the iTouch has no radio, and neither does any other iPod. The HD has interzune sharing, with the zune social. Like a song? Send it to another player for them to play three times. Like a song on the radio? Not only are they identified, but you can buy them, either immediately or lined up. The HD can sync wirelessly, show HD movies, comes in more colors than the iTouch can dream of, allows unlimited downloads for 14.99 a month, and has a custom laser etching graphic system, so if you want something better than the chocalate bunny Apple ego trip, you can be unique: and more colors are on the way.

    So quit whining about how bad this is. This blows the iTouch and its dull music player out of the water.

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