With the wave of Zune HD news today, its hard to not get swept in the excitement. After all Zune HD seems set on its way to overtaking Ipod dominance in the portable music player market. As always, the good ol’ US of A citizen will get their hands on it first. Perhaps after the lackluster success of Zune Originals, Microsoft is taking a step-by-step approach for each market, testing the waters to see if the Zune HD will receive a warm receptions.
Despite getting shafted over here in Australia, i chanced upon a diamond in the rough. The Zune 4.0 software is available for use to us without needing a Zune. It is extremely slick, runs buttery smooth unlike the crippled iTunes that was made for us Windows user. Finally, a music software to complement the overall good looks of Windows 7.
Zune 4.0 Software
Zune 4.0 Software is a free music player from Microsoft, originally built to complement their whole range of Zune Music Player. It is a very well designed piece of software with full hardware acceleration. This means that most of you with decent enough hardware to run it with premium graphics will be absolutely delighted.
Installation was an absolutely painless process. If you have been diligent at keeping your album stored, complete with all its album art, Zune will load it automatically. Zune 4.0 will ask for 3 of your favourite artist from a whole range of artist available in your album collection to generate a soundtrack list that will suit your musical preferences. I think this system is a step-up from iTunes’ Genius, in that it only generate playlist from music you already have, and does not require an account or subscription.
On the main menu you will see quick play list on the left side of the screen, there are 5 slots or so that you can place there so you do not have to rumpage through your entire library or even as much as type something to search for a music you listen a lot. It is available at a glance. In the middle will be an option to buy a Zune Pass which is entirely optional.On the right side of the screen is newly added music to your library. Hovering over each of the album art will reveal the album name (in case the album art was not informative as to which album it is). I find this feature extremely useful, especially if you have a large album library
But by far the most remarkable impression of Zune 4.0 software is its hallmark now playing screen. Clicking on the now playing album cover in the main menu transport you magically to a screen like above. The background are made out of all the album cover in your collection (SO START GETTING THOSE TIDIED UP!) and it is dynamic. What i mean by dynamic is that each of those album covers swaps back and forth with other album art in your entire collection. For the first time ever, i am absolutely enticed by watching something usually known only as the now playing screen.
Not only that, Zune 4.0 software also integrates your entire library of videos and pictures in one place in an equally slick interface. Zune 4.0 software not only beat Apple iTunes by a wide margin, it practically sends Microsoft’s own media center and windows media player 11 to oblivion.
If you need more reason to give out the Zune 4.0 a try, Zune 4.0 features full Windows 7 integration as featured below. Notice how integrates with the taskbar at the bottom.
Should you decide to try out the Zune Store using a Zune Pass, you would not need to set-up a new account if you have a Windows Live account or Xbox 360 Gamertag. This saves you time of creating a new account when you are not going to use all of its features (i.e Genius for iTunes requires an account) and yet, leave you with enough options should you wish to browse Zune store collections.
Overall, out of all the media player i tried so far, and believe me i tried a lot, Zune 4.0 offers the best interface with faster performance than iTunes on Windows, slicker than Media Center, smarter than Windows media player 11. The only downsides to Zune 4.0, is that Microsoft decides to leave Apple users to dust, because Zune 4.0 is not available for OS X at the moment. But considering Apple stance on always being propietary, it hardly comes as a surprise when Microsoft pulls the same trick.
Zune 4.0 software does not support a wide variety of video formats, one of them is the highly popular avi files. At the moment there is no other option to integrate your video other than converting them to WMV if you want to play it here. Interestingly, Zune 4.0 plays mp4 files, which is generally recognized by quicktime (more petty tricks).
Even with the fairly significant drawbacks regarding video file format, Zune 4.0 is a highly polished software that is definitely worth a try. For all of you windows 7 users out there, there is hardly a better choice for music playing, unless of course you have a large library of music collection bought off iTunes Store.
[Zune 4.0 Download][ Windows only]