Picture_3 Due to some luck I happened to get this Zune a day early. Not sure if I'm allowed to thank the person who let me have it early, but it's a review model, so it came fully loaded with music, videos and movies. It also comes with a 3 month membership to the market-place where I get free access (I think) to download whatever I want. I'm not totally sure if normal consumer Zunes will come with so much music and videos, but if it does, that's pretty sweet. They picked some good stuff.

The letter that came with it says, "The setup on this device is exactly what a typical consumer purchasing Zune will experience." That could go either way, I think. They could just be talking about the volume settings.

Packaging

I'll start with packaging because it's something the iPod and Apple excel at, and it was on my mind while opening Zune. There's really nothing going on here, it's just a box you slide open to find a bunch of stuff inside. I couldn't find the earbuds at first. That's about it. There's a lot of brown. The earbud covers were in one of those little ziploc bags you'd expect a couple of crack rocks to come in if you're the sort of person who cares about what his crack rocks come in. I am I guess.

Enough about packaging. It kept the Zune from getting wet while I walked in the rain, I suppose that's all that matters.

How Does It Feel?

I was trying to come up with a suitable example about what a Zune feels like. It's not quite an iPod—that solid, dense metal feeling you get when you first put one in your hands. It's actually a bit like holding a MacBook vs. a MacBook Pro. If you've never held a MacBook, it seems heavier, a bit cheaper, a bit more plastic and empty space lurking just underneath the plastic shell. There's also the sense that not all the seams are tightly held together. So if an iPod is a Macbook Pro, the Zune is a MacBook at best.

The seams are indeed a little off, giving you the feeling that if you dropped it you'd get to see inside the Zune. The buttons are a little squirrely and move around a bit if you rub your finger on them. I hate that.

How Are The Controls?

Weird. I find myself rotating the thing back and forth because the menuing is all portrait, and the videos are landscape. Right now I'm still just playing with the thing, and even though it's not an iPod wheel I am not having problems getting around. The only thing that's already become annoying is seeking forward and backward with the button disc. It just doesn't work and I find myself skipping around too much, finally giving up and just watching the bit over again.

What Does It Feel Like To Push An Acorn In Your Ear?

Not fun. Maybe I have tiny ear holes, but both Apple + MS need to get away from this hard plastic, one size fits all earbud thing and get with what is becoming more common. Soft-rubber earbuds with three sizes for small, medium, or large ears. Maybe nobody really uses these things. Either way, my ear already hurts.

I switched to my daily earbuds and the audio was actually pretty good. I will have to look into what the bit-rate is, but it seemed to sound as good as my work computer through an amplifier. I'm guessing they ripped everything at a pretty high rate for the review models.

I'll see how the thing does on my trip to work tomorrow. I've already tried installing the Zune software on my Parallels install: no dice. It crashes Parallels so this Zune experience will probably get cut short if I can't get anything onto it. I am excited about the radio, it means I'll be able to listen to NPR again.