Zune 4.0 software
So, the new Zune HD and Zune 4.0 software made their public debut today. While I don’t yet have the device, I did upgrade to the 4.0 desktop software. My first impression was…wow, this thing is SLOW. Not only is it slow, it is DOG slow. However, the more I use it, the better it gets. I suspect it is having to download content as you go along. It still maintains its speed disadvantage while downloading podcasts, but other things like browsing the Marketplace and using the SmartDJ feature seem to be getting faster the more I use them.
Right off, you know this is not the older version. When the software starts up, you see a black background with minimal text and graphics. This is the ‘Quickplay’ screen and it looks really nice. However, once you move from this screen, it very much looks like the older software, which is just fine. I don’t think I would want every screen to be black, but I was expecting something a bit different. However, there really wasn’t anything wrong with the way the older software looked, so this is OK with me.
The QuickPlay screen is nice. Here, you can ‘pin’ content for that quick play, see your newest content, see your recent play history, go to the Marketplace or your collection. Your SmartDJ lists are here as well and when you switch modes on QuickPlay, you get a cool animation that flips the two feature sets. Very nicely done and, I suspect, a major selling IF explained properly.
SmartDJ is a feature that goes through your music collection and assembles choices that are similar in style. iTunes has its Genius feature, which this is very close to in function.
The MarketPlace now contains movies that you can purchase or rent. So far, the selection is sparse, with titles from Universal, Lions Gate, Paramount and a couple of other distributors. High definition versions of the movies are available.
There are a couple of nifty little features for the 4.0 software that are worth mentioning. It has a ‘mini’ mode which will shrink the interface way down to just a small square with next, previous, pause and play controls. It is also Windows 7 friendly and takes full advantage of jumplists and incorporates play control in the taskbar preview. This is very similar to Windows Media Player’s taskbar integration.
Overall, Zune 4.0 is a nice upgrade. Performance issues aside, it is well worth moving to and has so many content management features packed into a nice looking and well thought out design.
Zune 30 and 2nd gen firmware upgrades
Yes, I said upgrades. The first upgrade set the version number to 3.2 (34) and the second put it at 3.2 (35). I don’t see any visual changes to the firmware other than the version number. I don’t know what has changed, and have not been able to find anything about the changes on line. The device seems as responsive as it did prior to the upgrade. I have not found any new settings or menu options. The changes are, likely, under the hood. Maybe they fixed the January 1 issue. If anyone has a clue about this, please enlighten us.