Microsoft Zune 16 GB
The latest Zune firmware lets you identify and download songs heard on the radio, but other than a capacity boost, little else has changed.
- Wireless browsing, FM tuner, Intuitive interface and controls
- Bulkier than other flash players, New firmware not preinstalled
If you prefer something extremely lightweight that integrates with a lot of third-party speakers and accessories, the fourth-generation 16GB iPod Nanos may be a better choice. All of these devices are available for about the same price as the Zune, so unless you're a big fan of Zune's software and the Zune Marketplace, you can probably find a better value elsewhere.
When PC World reviewed Microsoft's previous Zune flash player last fall, we questioned whether support for wireless and for video was overkill on a device that holds only 8GB of content. This fall, Microsoft addressed the storage limitations by adding a new 16GB model to its flash family.
But other than expanded storage and a glossy black case, the main changes involve the Zune 3.0 firmware--which is not preinstalled on the new Zunes (you must visit Zune.net to obtain it). What's more, the player's new features, though interesting, serve mostly as incentives to get you to buy from the Zune Marketplace.
The 16GB Zune retails for US$200--the same price that the 8GB Zune carried when it debuted. Size (including the 1.8-inch screen), weight, and the device's battery life (according to the company's spec) remain the same for the $200 Zune 16GB. At 0.3 inch thick, the 16GB Zune is noticeably bulkier than the 0.24-inch third-generation iPod Nano; it also weighs a bit more, at 1.7 ounces versus 1.3 ounces for the Nano.
The Zune supports AAC, MP3, WMA, WMA lossless, and its own DRM format for Zune Pass subscriptions. In case you'd sometimes rather listen to radio, the Zune includes a built-in FM tuner.
In our lab tests, audio quality was good, but the player's 20-step digital volume control doesn't permit much fine-tuning. On certain tracks, sound would be too low at one step and too high at the next. The player's signal-to-noise ratio of 80dB is consistent with its predecessor's and comparable to that of some of our highest-ranked players.
The Zune can play back video and display photos on its 1.8-inch, 320-by-240-pixel screen, too; with support for H.264, MPEG-4, and WMV encoding.
Video looked okay when played back on the device, but I wish that the screen had been expanded in the new models. Still, it's fine for watching TV shows or short clips, which is all that the Zune Marketplace offers anyway. Zune owners can preview and download shows from NBC, Fox, and cable networks such as MTV, Bravo, and Comedy Central from the Zune Marketplace.
The 16GB Zune retains the 8GB version's touch-sensitive control, which doubles as a clickable D-pad controller so you can scroll in four directions. When you select an artist and an album, scrolling up or down takes you through songs on that album Scrolling left or right switches to other albums by the same artist. Overall, the Zune has a very intuitive interface.
The most significant new features in the Zune 3.0 firmware are 'Buy from FM' and built-in wireless. Unlike Apple's 'Genius' feature, which applies only to newer iPods, Microsoft's free firmware upgrade is available for all generations of Zunes.
'Buy from FM' is a nice feature if you listen to music on the radio often. When you come across a song you like, you can tag it by clicking the center button--and if you're in a Wi-Fi hotspot, you can download it immediately. If Wi-Fi isn't available, your device will form a queue of songs for download.
Since I rarely listen to the radio, I can't see myself using this feature. But Microsoft claims that 50 percent of Zune owners use their built-in radio regularly, and 'Buy from FM' is certainly a useful feature for them. The tagging capability comes in handy for identifying songs that you like but don't know the name of.
The wireless feature also allows you to find, buy (at $0.99 per song), and download content from Zune's Marketplace while on the go. If you have a Zune Pass ($15 per month), you can download or stream an unlimited number of songs directly to both your player and your computer.
Microsoft announced that it is partnering with McDonald's to provide free wireless for Zune customers at about 10,000 restaurants. We weren't able to test how well the players respond to ketchup spills.
As with the 8GB Zune, you can share playlists, songs, albums and podcasts with your Zune-owning friends within a wireless range. It's a great feature, but you can listen only three times to any song that you receive in this way; then you have to buy it from the Zune Marketplace if you want to keep listening to it.
Other updates include Audible.com audiobook support, a couple of free games (Texas Hold 'Em and a puzzle game), and a home-screen clock.
Overall, the Zune 16GB offers some nice features, but despite its new firmware and doubled capacity, there are better flash players on the market. If you're looking for maximum storage space, the SanDisk Sansa View offers a 32GB player; and the 16GB Creative Zen X-Fi, our top-ranked MP3 player, lets you expand your storage via SD Card.
Join the PC World newsletter!
Smart LED Bulb LB130
Epson WorkForce ET-4550
Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive
UE Boom 2 Bluetooth speaker
Samsung portable 1TB T3 drive
Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop
Epson EcoTank Expression ET-2500
Linksys AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit router
Huawei Mate 9
Logitech G403 Prodigy mouse
Lexar® Portable SSD
3SIXT Ultra HD Sports Action Camera
Google Daydream VR headset
Belkin MIXIT Metallic Lightning to USB Cable
Acer Swift 7
Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive
Epson WorkForce DS-360W
Blade 28 backpack by Arc’teryx
Dell Inspiron 5000 series 2-in-1
Garmin Fenix Chronos smartwatch
Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones
HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450
Surface Pro 4
Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive
Dell XPS 13 laptop
HP Pavilion x360 13”
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Oppo R9s Plus phone: Full, in-depth review
- 2 Samsung 2017 QLED Q7 TV: Full, in-depth review
- 3 HTC U Ultra phone full, in-depth review
- 4 Gigabyte Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming 5 AMD Ryzen AM4 motherboard review
- 5 Venom Blackbook Zero 14 laptop review
Latest News Articles
- Apple's Q1: Record $US18.4 billion profit, but iPhone sales are slowing
- Sony shows latest high-end Walkman
- Sydney Airport lost property auction: you'll be amazed at what some people left behind
- The iPod classic plays its last
- Apple iPod Touch pricing slashed by up to 25 per cent in Australia
PCW Evaluation Team
A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.
I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.
As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.
I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!
For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.
- LG G6: unboxing, hands on review and detail shots
- Samsung Galaxy A5 2017: unboxing, hands on review and detail shots
- And the 2017 winner of the Formula 1 Best Pit Lane Boom Gantry is...
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
- FTSocial Media ExecutiveNSW
- CCJava DeveloperVIC
- CCSenior Developer - Oracle - TelcoVIC
- FTSenior Change Analyst/ Change ManagerNSW
- FTField Deployment EngineerNSW
- CCMigration EngineerACT
- CCSenior Test Analyst-InfrastructureNSW
- TPDigital Business AnalystNSW
- CCChange AnalystQLD
- CCITCM EngineerNSW
- FTHadoop Service AdministratorVIC
- FTProject Manager, FinanceNSW
- FTHead of Architecture, Global Financial InstitutionNSW
- FTRuby on Rails DeveloperQLD
- FTLevel 3 Application Support AnalystVIC
- FTBusiness Analyst - SalesforceVIC
- FTICT Project ManagerNSW
- FTSolution Designer/ Technical LeadSA
- TPService Desk AnalystVIC
- CCInfosphere ConsultantACT
- CCSenior Full Stack Web Developer - Port MacquarieNSW
- CCSenior Business AnalystSA
- CCOracle WebLogic AdministratorNSW
- FTSenior Lead Developer/Architect - TelcoVIC
- TP.Net Software DeveloperQLD