What Is Zune?

What is Zune anyways? Well, first what it is not. It isn't an iPod. It won't walk your dog and it doesn't make coffee.

And if you've been thinking about firing your boss recently, it's not going to help you out either. Click here to find something else that will help you do that!

So what does it do?

The Zune is a great digital music player from Microsoft. In this article we'll explore it's media capabilities. And in part 2 we look at some of its other features.

No matter what Zune you end up buying, you'll get all of the great features we discuss here.

Music

You wouldn't buy a Zune if you didn't care for music. So let's start with the music first.

The Zune supports the three most common music formats. So your entire digital music collection should just work with the Zune. No need for any file format conversions.

It wouldn't be an MP3 player if it didn't support MP3 files. And it is so it does.

It also supports WMA which is Microsoft's audio format. If you use Windows Media Player to rip your CDs (they're yours, right?) then your files will be in WMA format. Unless you've changed the options to rip them as MP3. In which case you are covered too.

Do you currently own an iPod? Nothing to be ashamed about, I have one too! And any files you have in AAC format work with the Zune. You'll have AAC files if you use the Apple iTunes software to rip CDs.

If you've bought tracks through iTunes these files will not work on the Zune. iTunes distributes music in protected AAC format which is not compatible with the Zune. Please remember this. I'd hate for you to be disappointed later on.

Finally, the Zune supports WMA Lossless. If you are an audiophile this is great news for you! You can now experience pure CD quality audio on the go. Without lugging around that ten year old portable CD player you refuse to give up. Ditch it already, will you!

Ok, I lied when I said finally. One more thing...

The Zune does not support WMA-DRM9. Heard of "PlaysForSure"? This is music you might have bought through other online music stores like Napster or Urge. It's supposed to play for sure with mp3 players certified to work with Windows.

That would be the Zune, right? Wrong. Unfortunately it does not play for sure on the Zune!

PlaysForSure is Microsoft's own brand to certify digital music that is compatible with Windows. So why does their own player not play for sure? You got me there.

But I just had to tell you since I'm on your side. If you don't buy music from subscription services like Napster, then never mind.

FM Radio

You can listen to FM radio with a Zune. Something that you can't do with an iPod.

The other day I was listening to the radio on my Zune and I actually saw the name of the song! If you are like me then this is going to get you excited! No more wondering who was that and what was the song's name.

Wait, it gets better...

Not only can you see the name, you can tag the song. It gets placed in your Marketplace queue and you can buy it later on if you like.

Does it get cooler than that? Not for me!

Also, most gyms broadcast the audio of the TV they are showing on an FM frequency. So now you can tune in with your Zune.

Tune, Zune. Hmmm...that rhymes. Wonder if it's by accident.

Video

Let's talk about video now. The Zune is a very capable video device. It supports three formats - WMV, MPEG-4 and H.264.

If you create home movies on your PC, you can watch them on your Zune.

And if you record your favorite TV shows using Windows Media Center, you'll be happy to know that you can watch them as well. Great for those long train or bus rides! (You weren't planning on watching them while driving, were you?)

The headphone jack on the Zune doubles as an AV output. So you can directly hook your Zune to your friend's TV and show her your favorite video. You weren't planning on carrying an AV dock around to do this, were you? Sorry, my friend. If you buy an iPod I'm afraid you will have to.

You can watch video on any Zune. But if you plan to watch a lot of video, then you'll be better off with one of the larger capacity Zunes. Not only can they carry a lot more video, they also come with a larger screen. Video just looks nicer without having to squint, don't you think?

Photos

The Zune is now your digital photo album. You can now carry pretty much every photo you've ever taken. In your pocket. And show them to your friends.

Hint: If you want to keep your friends, please don't show them every photo you ever taken!

The Zune supports only JPEG format natively. My digital camera stores photos as JPEG and I'm pretty sure yours does too. But just in case your photos are in a different format, the Zune software will transcode them to JPEG before sync'ing them to your Zune. So you'll be fine either way.

Podcasts

Do you want to listen to podcasts on the go? You can use your Zune to do this. The Zune supports both audio and video podcasts.

It also allows you to bookmark your position within a podcast. This is really handy for those looooonnngg podcasts that you can't finish in one session. You can come back and conveniently start right where you left off.

Audiobooks

The Zune supports audiobooks too. Either from audible.com or overdrive.com.

Another great feature for those long commutes. And this time don't worry about using it while driving!

Games

The last thing we'll cover in this article is games. You can play games on the Zune. It comes with two games - "Hexic" and "Texas Hold 'Em Poker".

You can play a customized soundtrack in the background while you are gaming.

And you can also compete with players on other nearby Zunes wirelessly. Cool, huh?

In part 2 we'll discuss some more Zune features. Ready? Let's go!

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