Tuesday, January 12, 2010

iPod Nano and Zune HD: Capable Media Players

OTHER THAN THE ability to play music and video, the new iPod Nano and the Zune HD share few similarities. The iPod Nano is more of a secondary player for commutes or the gym, and its new video camera makes it ideal for YouTube clips. Th e Zune HD, in contrast, is for the media junkie, offering a higher capacity and HD video playback.

Apple iPod Nano
Measuring 3.6 by 1.5 by 0.24 inches and bearing a 2.2-inch display, the 1.3-ounce fifth gen Nano ($150 for 8GB, $180 for 16GB) comes in a rainbow of colors, encased in polished anodized aluminum. The finish is attractive, but susceptible to smudges and fingerprints. Among the new features is an FM radio tuner (at last!). Though the FM radio isn’t particularly innovative (we saw this feature on the firstgen Zune), it can pause and play radio, and it works well. Thanks to its integration with iTunes, the Nano has unbeatable audio and video features. Genius Mixes, which group your music by a common characteristic, generate directly on the Nano when you sync from iTunes. Audio sounded clean but somewhat tinny through the included earbuds. In the PC World Labs’ audio-quality tests, this Nano scored similarly to its predecessor, receiving a rating of Superior.

The video camera is a positive addition. Th e lens placement is awkward, however, and I found that holding the sliver-thin Nano by its edges was difficult. Gripping it at the bottom doesn’t work well either, as the lens sits at the bottom of the device when you hold it vertically. Video shot outside was bright and sharp. But since the Nano has no contrast or brightness controls, my indoor clips were fuzzy, dark, and grainy. The mic picked up sound adequately. The 640-by-480-pixel VGA footage is compatible with streaming-video sites, and it works natively in iTunes. Watching video on the Nano itself is surprisingly enjoyable. Still, viewing videos on a device this small takes some getting used to, and the rounded screen attracts quite a bit of glare.

Microsoft Zune HD
The Zune HD marks a huge mprovement from last year’s
odel in speed, video quality, usability, and design. But while it is priced competitively
($220 for 16GB, $290 for 32GB), you’ll have to pay more to take full advantage
of all of its features. Physically, the Zune HD represents a complete make- over. It measures 4.0 by 2.0 by 0.3 inches and weighs 2.6 ounces. A gorgeous, 3.3-inch, multitouch OLED display dominates the face. Microsoft has added an HD radio receiver. HD radio delivers cleaner sound than analog FM does, and lets stations broadcast extra channels; you can also tag and download songs from the Zune Marketplace. To fully enjoy the Zune HD’s high-def video capabilities, you’ll have to pay $80 for the HDMI docking station. The Zune HD supports 720p HD fi les, so you can play videos via the dock on your HDTV. Video on my HDTV had bright and accurate colors, smooth transitions, and little pixelation. Video playback on the Zune HD itself was impressive, too. Audio quality was good, but you’ll want to ditch the included earbuds. With better headphones, songs sounded rich and clean. Microsoft has optimized the interface for the multitouch display. Th e new Quickplay item displays your most recently added content and history, and lets you pin your favorites. The Zune 4.0 PC soft ware has its own splashy Quickplay page. You can’t sync the menus, however; favorites you add to your Zune won’t carry over to your PC. Another new soft ware feature is SmartDJ, which, similar to Genius Mixes, creates a playlist from songs in your library and on the Zune Marketplace. You have to buy the Zune Pass ($15 per month), however, to enjoy the Zune Marketplace content.

Source of Information : PC World December 2009

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