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Zune HD versus iPod Touch: Round 2, Video

Posted on 23rd Nov 2009 at 10:28 by Richard Swinburne with 14 comments

Richard Swinburne
In the previous round of this face off between the Microsoft Zune HD and Apple iPod Touch, I concentrated on the music end of things. This time round I'll go into the video playback.

Firstly, the iPod Touch: media playback is pretty good with the nice sized screen suitable for both 4:3 and 16:9 content, although there's very little media support (basically just MP4) and you can't get subtitles unless you buy through the Apple store - something I flat out refuse to do because of DRM.

Comparatively, the Zune HD screen feels notably smaller, to the point where anything that isn't using the whole (very) widescreen format is almost squint-worthy. In that regard the iPod offers a better viewing experience unless you only watch widescreen videos.

Media support for the Zune is also very limited, but it accepts WMV as well as MP4, though most converters prefer the H.264 for MP4. Again, this means the ever popular MKV format is neglected on both parts - however the Zune will happily accept a full fat 720p MP4 and downscale it into its own native format - that's pretty neat! Although, a waste of storage if you're going to convert it from DVD/MKV/AVI anyway.


The colour and black level quality of the ZuneHD is phenomenal compared to the iPod Touch. The colours are extremely vibrant and the blacks are actually black thanks to the OLED screen. The downside is the glossy screen; I've found using it under strip lights or in daylight makes it very difficult to see anything at all. That's still the case with the iPod to some degree, but it's not as bad.

Zune HD versus iPod Touch: Round 2, Video

The other advantage of the Zune HD is that it can use one of the key Nvidia Tegra features: 720p output. That doesn't mean the Zune HD has a mini-HDMI jack built in though, unfortunately, so to output HDMI it requires an expensive adapter kit. Since we're not alien to hefty costs of adapters and whatnot from Apple, it's hardly surprising Microsoft has jumped on the bandwagon too, and if you do travel a lot it means there's always your own movies and TV to watch on the hotel TVs.

On the interface side the Zune needs work though. Not only does the iPod clearly list how long is left to play, it can also be flipped to either side and shows what has and hasn't been played in a playlist. The Zune does none of this.

The Zune does allow 30 second skipping though, which is a godsend because trying to move the slider along on either the iPod or Zune is never that accurate. The iPod is still limited to skipping chapters only, which is as good as useless.

Verdict: On paper the Zune comes out on top because of the better feature set, however personally I just find it too small to watch most stuff comfortably, especially when I try to oggle Jeri Ryan. This round goes to Apple.

14 Comments

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Blademrk 23rd November 2009, 13:23 Quote
it might just be the photo, but the image on the iPod looks blurry compared to the image on the Zune?
Cupboard 23rd November 2009, 13:43 Quote
Can you use the video output for things other than video? I can see the attraction of using the web browser on a big screen...
xaser04 23rd November 2009, 14:06 Quote
Ok, as my wife (accidently) dropped my touch down the toilet at the weekend (literally)... I am very much looking forward to the next roundups to get a decent picture on whether I replace it 'like for like' or look at the Zune.
Ph4ZeD 23rd November 2009, 14:59 Quote
You still can't get Zune anywhere but the States, which tells you something about Microsoft's confidence in the product.
Bindibadgi 23rd November 2009, 15:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blademrk
it might just be the photo, but the image on the iPod looks blurry compared to the image on the Zune?

It's the image. I could not pause and photograph it without it being slightly blurry. Having said that, the screen on the Zune is very nice. Even if small.

Ph4ZeD - that's more to do with the fact Microsoft wants the Zune integrated into ZunePass, which music companies dont want outside the US. Same issue with the original.
Cptn-Inafinus 23rd November 2009, 17:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by xaser04
Ok, as my wife (accidently) dropped my touch down the toilet at the weekend (literally)... I am very much looking forward to the next roundups to get a decent picture on whether I replace it 'like for like' or look at the Zune.

Other than when you are listening to music, do people actually ever use the features of an iPhone or Zune or wotsit unless they are on the toilet?
Cupboard 23rd November 2009, 23:59 Quote
I can imagine reading something whilst on the loo, yes. In fact, I frequently check my emails!
Sheiken 24th November 2009, 06:33 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cupboard
I can imagine reading something whilst on the loo, yes. In fact, I frequently check my emails!

I always ude my iPhone when I now I'm going to spend some time sitting down on the loo, in fact I'm typing this from my iPhone!
xaser04 24th November 2009, 07:26 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ph4ZeD
You still can't get Zune anywhere but the States, which tells you something about Microsoft's confidence in the product.

.... http://www.zunethings.co.uk/zune-hd-c-45.html.....

:|
dolphin-promotions 24th November 2009, 10:11 Quote
@xaser04

These are imports. MS is not officially distributing in the UK. So if it breaks I am guessing MS wont support it and you will have to rely on the warranty provided by zunethings. Still it is not a bad option, but I would say it needs to be a bit cheaper than the touch to win people over.
xaser04 24th November 2009, 11:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by dolphin-promotions
@xaser04

These are imports. MS is not officially distributing in the UK. So if it breaks I am guessing MS wont support it and you will have to rely on the warranty provided by zunethings. Still it is not a bad option, but I would say it needs to be a bit cheaper than the touch to win people over.

Import or not you can get the Zune in the UK (which is the point I was reffering to).

Of course, whether you would want an import is another matter entirely.

I agree on the price though. It needs to be cheaper than the touch (at the same capacity) to perk peoples interest (otherwise they will just buy the touch without even researching either device).
flibble666 25th November 2009, 13:23 Quote
ok first who in their right mind as a "tester" or ipod fanboy as it seem would use 4;3 video to test a wide screen device the difference between the two screens is 0.2 inches and 38 pixels in the i pods favour but in every other review ive read the tester used widescreen footage from what i can tell from the above you have used 4;3 footage the ipod seems to be slightly stretching the footage and the zune displaying it correctly its a bit like testing a 42" tv with 420p footage in 4:3 with no upscaling in every other review i have read the zune wins video playback hands down due to the OLED display well apart from the obvious ipod and zune fanboy reviews which will obviously be biased
500mph 26th November 2009, 12:17 Quote
Flibble, it's called punctuation. It makes posts easier to read.
Anyways, I am assuming that the video played was the same episode, just at a different part. They should both be the same 16:9 ratio, it just appears that the Zune has 4:3 due to the dark background in that scene.
jonasgreatguide 26th November 2009, 12:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by 500mph
Flibble, it's called punctuation. It makes posts easier to read.
Anyways, I am assuming that the video played was the same episode, just at a different part. They should both be the same 16:9 ratio, it just appears that the Zune has 4:3 due to the dark background in that scene.

Yep, I agree with this one.
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