Goodbye to the social. According to several reputable-ish sites, the Zune HD obviously is no more, and there will probably be no more new Zune hardware players. It doesn’t come as a real shock, looking at the stepmotherly way Microsoft treated its Zune devices for the longest time. No international availability, no marketing/awareness/advertisements, no real updates in a long time, too crippled and locked down for many people’s needs, and so on. The software side of things however should live on (for now), on the Xbox and Windows Phone 7, which seems to be a somewhat safer way than competing directly with iTunes and iPods. Seems the whole Zune platform was just a long term sandbox for Microsoft testing the waters for more lucrative device implementations. Current Zune fans will not be amused. Good luck for your future endeavors.
Northernmost of all North Americans, rejoice – you too can now be part of the “Social”. Straight from Microsoft’s business development department, the Zune HD is now officially available in Canada, in three glorious capacities (16, 32, 64GB) and seven wonderful colors. Personal disfigurement customization via engravings is a possibility as well.
Of course the Zune HD has been sold unofficially in Canada for quite some time already, but now it’s all legit, more or less – yet availability of the online store, subscription service, and all that might still be missing. Head over to Zune Originals for more info. Personally, I can’t verify how well that works. Me being in Europe, the site rudely screams “ACCESS DENIED” in 40 point bold font at me when I try to access it. I feel a bit sad, not being part of the “Social”, but that’s how the story goes.
At Zuneboards they are giving away two Kicker speaker docks for the Zune: the ZK350 and the ZK150. If you recall my two reviews on them, they are very impressive- so you don’t want to miss these. The rules are simple just make a image signature on Zuneboards with anything kicker in it. No graphic talent needed, one Kicker dock will be chosen for the best signature and one will be chosen at random just for participating. Check out Zuneboards for the details.
But wait there is more!
Not to leave ABI out of this, we will give away the ZK500 here on ABI in a similar fashion. Simply create Zune HD wallpaper with anything Kicker in it. Details in the Zune Forum.
Forum member nate8nate found out that the Zune HD’s closed ecosystem might be not so closed after all. By installing Windows 7 Phone Connector for OS X and enabling the Zune via commandline he managed to successfully connect to his Mac, and transfer files to the player.
Let’s see how long it takes until that awesome undocumented feature dangerous bug is removed, for your own safety and convenience. Or maybe it’s a sign that Microsoft is loosening its iron grip on their walled garden a bit. Well, that was enough metaphor abuse for one day. Either way, rumors about Zune HD support for Mac have been around for quite a while already – of course support for Zune Marketplace on Mac is a whole other issue.
A few days ago the talented hackers on ZuneBoards created “OpenZDK” that will allow programming of 3D games and applications- something that XNA would not allow on the Zune HD. So what would be the first logial 3D game to port to the Zune HD? …Doom of course.
If you are looking for something a little more rugged in terms of protecting your Zune HD and in terms of looks the Speck PixelSkin case for the Zune HD might be something on your radar. The best way to describe the PixelSkin is a military grade version of a simple silicon skin. In terms of functionality and fit it’s the same as a silicon skin but much more skin so to speak and who doesn’t like to see a little more skin?
All of the buttons are easily accessed through the skin along with the bottom dock and headphone ports. It will also work with some docking station if you remove the dock insert. I currently use this skin with the Kicker ZK500 just by removing the dock insert.
The Speck PixelSkin can be found on Amazon for roughly $17- a pretty cheap investment to protect your precious Zune HD.
Looking for a high end case for your Zune HD? Noreve has you covered as always. If you read this site with frequency you see that I review a lot of Noreve cases and I always have good things to say about them. The materials, fit, and function are always top notch for all of their cases I have seen first hand. The case for the Zune HD is no different. Having said that it certainly comes with a price tag to match the quality. Read on below for some more thoughts and photos on this Zune HD case.
Jaewoo Kim is a designer and student at Art Center College of Design that loves to design cases for MP3 players. A few months ago he sent me a hand made case for the Samsung P3. It was a cool project and like nothing i have ever seen from any of the other case manufactures. However there were some issues that didn’t make the case practical, the shape just didn’t allow the case to be secured properly. But as all students do, they constantly learn from their experiences. Enter Jaewoo’s second round- the Point Zero ONE Zune HD case.
In this round i am truly impressed with what he has crafted out of a sheet of thick plastic. This sheet is cleverly folded much like a complex piece of origami to protect your Zune HD. The tolerances are tight, lining up perfectly with the screen and dimensions of the player. All of the ports and buttons are easily accessible.
These cases sell for $10-12 on Jaewoo’s site. If you want something truely unique and would like to help put a talented design student though school check it out below.
In the Zune HD forums there are some frustrated Zune HD users patiently waiting for more Zune applications. I do sympathize with them since it is a little bit disparaging having such a powerful Nvidia Tegra device being limited by application releases. In the thread, Microsoft’s DaveMac-MS cannot yet offer a time table for app releases but does offer this:
“I’ll be able to tell you more about the Twitter and Facebook apps once they’re out – in the meantime, there are a number of cogs in this wheel and we’d rather stick to a quality-driven release schedule, than a date-driven one.”
The important piece of info here is “quality-driven”. The time frame is no doubt frustrating and no excuses should be made for the slow release but it is good to hear that time is being spent to get it right the first time. Too many devices recently have been rushed to store shelf unfinished and buggy. Recent examples: Archos 5, Motorola Droid, Creative Zen X-Fi2. It’s a sad trend in the device industry we see way too often.
No information on upcoming apps for the Zune HD is available at this time, but in the mean time you can check out some demo’s and proof of concepts currently being made Zune enthusiast Roguemat to get an idea of what is to come.
The Zune HD wallpaper contest in the forums produced some really great looking original wallpapers optimized for the Zune HD. The winner of the contest, ABI member Rom, created a spinoff of the “I’m a PC” Microsoft ad campaigns calling his series “I’m a Zune”. The picture pack features some great looking vector graphics with happy Zune characters. Nice job Rom!
Judging these were a touch call since there were a lot of great wallpapers. The best of the bunch have been added to a downloadable picture pack you can drop right on to your Zune HD organized into folders by the members. Check out these great papers below and download these great wallpaper or browse all of the wallpapers in the Zune HD wallpaper forum.
The Clip+ has a fantastic little form factor; somewhat cheap in build quality but very rugged. The interface is simple and relatively straightforward. The features on the Clip are more or less average, however it supports the alternative Rockbox firmware which provides tons of additional options (gapless playback, Replaygain, playlists, Last.fm scrobbling, etc). Read the full review or go ahead and buy it.
The J3 is a fantastic PMP with a very nice AMOLED screen and tons of features. It sports Cowon's trademark BBE sound enhancements, and offers a customizable user interface with strong support by our user community. You can usually find it at Amazon for the best price - and don't forget to check out our review.
Microsoft Zune HD
Sure, many of us are not big fans of the walled garden, but there are a lot of great things going on with the Zune: sturdy hardware, ultra easy to use user interface, and a media player that is worthy of Editor’s Choice. You can check out our Zune HD review or stop by our Zune forums for the latest info and gossip.
Phonak Audéo PFE
Phonak Audéo PFE offer outstanding clarity and precision; natural, dynamic mids and treble, and decent bass for a single armature in-ear phone. They handle dense, complex music very well. The PFE work well with most acoustic and some electronic music genres, but bassheads might have to look at other alternatives. They're great for sports as well, since they fit very securely. Check out our review.
The Hippo VB (Variable Bass) offers a serious subwoofer for on the go, right in your head. They don’t just deliver generous quantities of punchy, textured bass, but good audio quality over the whole frequency range with decent clarity and exceptional soundstage. Exchangeable bass ports let you customize their sound to your liking. Read our in-depth Hippo VB review.
Soundmagic E10 / E30
The Soundmagic E10 and E30 are basically right in the middle between the Phonak PFE and Hippo VB - not too analytical sounding, not too bass heavy. The E10 provide a bit more bass, the E30 a bit more clarity. Both come with a very fair price tag considering the sound quality they deliver - a great choice for the audio aficionado on a budget. Read our E10 and E30 reviews for more info.