Performance [Zune HD and Dock]
As with any other subjective subject we will try not to just give you our opinion but at the very least a small sampling of people. This should give you a better understanding of how a device such as the Zune HD really performs. For this we had to break things down into segments. We wanted to make sure that we covered all of the aspects of the Zune HD as well as the Zune AV Dock. Zune HD:
This was a very fun test for us. It just happened that while performing my subjective testing I was in Saint Augustine, Florida. This happens to be one of my favorite cities in the US and one that we got to as often as we can. I was able to get a very large sampling of people from all over the world to thrust the Zune HD at and see what they thought of it. I ended up choosing about 10 people at random; from shop owners, to store employees, to random people on the street. I asked them to take a look at the Zune HD then let them listen to a couple of musical tracks and watch part of a movie that I already had converted and synced. I then asked them a few questions without telling them it was a Microsoft product;
What is your overall impression of this new player?
Give me a number between one and five to rate its appearance, ease of use and quality.
Give me a number between one and five to rate its audio quality.
Give me a number between one and five to rate its video quality.
Would you buy something like this?
Is there anything you would like to see in this product?
Please give me one word to describe this new media player.
Everyone that I showed the Zune HD to liked it; they loved the screen and found the UI to be “very cool”. There was one universal question that seemed in many cases to kill the glowing feeling; this was a lack of a phone feature. As they were looking at the Zune HD and marveling over the way it felt and looked they would ask it. “Where is the phone at?” when I explained to them that there was no phone and it was just a media player more than half immediately handed the player back. The rest sort of looked at me then kept looking the Zune HD over. You could tell that the lack of a phone was a problem though. Eight out of the ten said they would buy something like this from a store or online. Seven out of the ten said they wanted to see a phone in this as it would make it a much more desirable product while the remaining three said they wanted a phone AND a built in external speaker. It is interesting that none of the people that I talked to were concerned about the lack of tabs in the browser, only having g specification wireless, or any of the other shortcomings that I felt would be big problems. Instead they all seemed to be disappointed by the lack of a phone.
High points that were talked about by the group were the clean and sharp display screen and the full and spacious sound. I used a pair of decent headphones that fit in the ear canal for my testing [Icematt Siberia].
The numbers give are shown below:
Zune HD Stand Alone Performance
The words used to describe the Zune HD were:
Very Nice [5 people]
Cool! [3 people]
And one each of Sleek and Clean
My personal impression of the Zune HD player is that it has significantly better audio and video quality over the iPhone 3G S that I own. Even playing the same music or video, the Zune HD simply walks away from the iPhone. Yes the Zune HD has a smaller screen but the color saturation and black point is so much better that I found I would rather watch the smaller Zune HD than the larger iPhone 3G S. Audio quality was also cleaner and fuller; the iPhone has a thin, weak and reedy sound. There is an overabundance of upper midrange and high sound. This makes the iPhone sound small while the more spacious and full sound from the Zune HD is easily noticeable to anyone that listens to high quality audio equipment. As an example when watching the movie I used for testing [Iron Man] I found that even small sounds, like bullets whipping by were easily audible on the Zune HD while they were not on the iPhone 3G S.
For my last test I played the Zune HD out through my Tecon Model 55 Tube Amplifier. This test showed off the Zune HD’s ability to reproduce sound in a much more significant way. Playing Stevie Ray Vaughn’s version of Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing using that clean and powerful tube amp was something. As an encore I treated myself to Jimi Hendrix Cross Town Traffic and Are you Experienced. Zune HD in the AV Dock
After playing with the Zune HD out of the dock I took it home and plugged it into my Magnavox HD TV. I ran this HDMI out for video and Toslink optical to my surround sound system.
For my testing here I gathered 5 people and asked them to rate the quality from One to Five again for both Video and Audio playback. As you can see below the Zune HD does an excellent job of living up to its boasts of providing a clean portable HD media experience.
Zune HD in AV Dock Performance
For my part I found the Zune AV Dock to be very well done indeed. You do not get all of the options when plugged into the rock with only music, radio and video available to you. The downside is that if you playback any media that you place on your Zune HD on your own using Videora Zune HD converter you will notice the lower quality. I played Iron Man back on the HD TV and found it pixelated and muddy. The audio was also not as good as it was when watching it directly on the Zune HD. We will have to play around and see if there is a way to overcome this issue by adjusting settings on Videora. We will follow up with what we find out.
Click to Enlarge
Of course there is a downside to everything; with the AV Dock it is when would you honestly use this. I have an HD TV, HD Cable access, and a Bluray Player. This type of setup is not uncommon these days, where in that setup does a device that allows for 720p playback fit? Maybe as a dock for the HD radio to be used in the home or as a method to listen to MP3s over a home audio system, but if have an HTPC then it would be used even less. As I mentioned above; if Microsoft made the dock more portable [removed the permanently attached cables] and more hotels gave you access to HD [or any] inputs on the TVs in room it would be more usable. Sadly this part of the equation, while nice and fun, just does not fit right now.Battery Life
NVIDIA estimates the Tegra Battery Life at 10 hours of HD Video playback [at 720p] and 110 hours of MP3 playback. In our testing we found that even after eight hours of movies we still had plenty of juice left over. Music playback ran into multiple days before we needed to hook up the Zune HD to a power source. When not running anything the Zune HD simply sips power. Application power usage is the dark cloud in this sunny picture. When we played any of the games the Zune HD seemed to eat up the battery. With a full charge we played Space Battle 2 for 30 minutes and noticed that we had used up about 1/4 of the battery. Playing Goo Splat for another 30 minutes killed off another 1/4. This gives you an estimated 2 hours of gaming life on the Zune HD. This is with games that are not even that demanding too. With more demanding games your battery life could be even worse. I hope that Microsoft and NVIDIA can tweak this to improve power consumption soon as it does not bode well for the Zune HD as a mobile gaming platform if they cannot.
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