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All posts tagged "hardware"

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Boston Herald Tries Out Three High-End Players

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Digital Home Talk" @ 09:30 AM


"When you talk about high-end touchscreen personal media players, as they’re more commonly called, that talk usually turns to the iPod Touch, admittedly a great gadget. But with Apple getting so much attention these days, we thought we’d seek out some alternatives to the Touch. For the past three weeks, I’ve been putting three touchscreen MP3 players through their paces, loading each one with a carefully selected MP3 playlist that includes everything from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, and videos ranging from Lady Jane Boleyn episodes in “The Tudors” to Lady Gaga in “Bad Romance.” I surfed the Web, listened to FM radio, checked e-mail, went on my Facebook account and even checked out apps."

The Boston Herald recently put three different high-end media players through the paces, and offers a good article on the benefits of each. Paul Restuccia loves the Zune HD for its bouncy music effects, the Archos 5 for its video, and the Sony X-Series Walkman for its sharp design. All of the players get demerits for their comparatively few apps available, but such is the state of the market now. Click through to the read link to check out the full article and let us know if you bought any of these players and what appealed to you about them.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

ABI Reviews Kicker ZKick ZK350

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 11:08 PM


"I have used nearly every Zune dock on the market and so far this one is my personal favorite since it combines great sound with portability. The ZK500 certainly does hit harder and louder, but for an 1100 square foot apartment, the ZK350 is way more than enough. I might lean more towards the ZK500 if I were using it outside or didn’t have neighbors to upset. Either way the ZK350 is a great option in the ZKick series of Zune docks."

AnythingButIpod has reviewed the latest iteration of the Kicker series of Zune speaker docks, the ZK350. And as you can see from the quote above, they really like it! I think a portable speaker dock like this would be great for things like outdoor parties, tail gates, and maybe even some car-side camping.

For me the price tag is a little steep for something I wouldn’t get much use out of but if you think a speaker dock would be handy to have around, check out the full review!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

What Should Microsoft Do?

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune Talk" @ 06:50 AM


"Let’s be honest, Microsoft has done a bad job at promoting both its Zune HD product and the Zune brand itself. One reason most people say Microsoft jumped into the mp3 market was to compete with Apple and iTunes. Fast forward and Microsoft Zune is barely a whisper. Apple currently controls the mp3 market, Microsoft is not even in 2nd place. Sandisk holds that position. I’ve come up with a few suggestions that Ballmer needs to do to make Zune better"

A blogger by the handle of THEPHOENIX720 has posted five things that he feels Microsoft needs to do to make the Zune a success. And let’s not beat around the bush here, I think the Zune really is, from a sales standpoint, a failure. The technology of the platform is sound but Microsoft dropped every ball it could with it. THEPHOENIX720 is pretty much right on the money with his suggestions. The only problem is that Microsoft should have done everything he suggested YEARS ago.

Now it’s never too late to remake yourself or a product. Apple, in the past decade, has enjoyed a resurgence that no one can claim they saw coming. Microsoft made a huge blunder with Windows Vista only to completely recover with Windows 7. Companies and product lines can be salvaged. But Microsoft has to make an effort! Apple didn’t save itself only by making some good hardware. The iPod itself is a good MP3 player but their advertising campaign was perfect. Their advertising for their computers, iPhones, and iPad have all been right on the money.

Microsoft however couldn’t convince you to buy an umbrella in a downpour. I don’t know why that is. The other points about product synergy and pushing the Zune Pass all SEEM obvious. Yet, Microsoft has never followed through. The original promises of what the Zune could be are finally starting to come to fruition on the Zune HD but never really quite made it there.

In a way, I think Microsoft should go with his fifth option, which is to kill the Zune HD. Before you get too outraged, hear me out! Windows Phone 7 has Zune capability. The Kin has Zune capability. Clearly, Zune has finally become more than just about the Zune player. With the Zune available in multiple formats, Microsoft should do what they did with Vista and give us a "new" Zune. Then you can push the heck out of it. Not saying it would work but sometimes wrapping a good product in a new package lets you promote it in new ways. Microsoft doesn’t even measure on the market share meter here so what do they really have to lose?

What does anyone else think Microsoft can do to get the Zune back on track?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Shure's SE530 Sound Isolating Earphones With PTH Option.

Posted by Monty Gibson in "Windows Phone Accessories" @ 07:00 AM

Product Category: Hardware
Manufacturer: Shure
Where to Buy: Amazon [affiliate]
Price: SE530 In-Ear Sound Isolating Headphones: $549.00 USD with the PTH option; $499.00 USD without the PTH option.
System Requirements: Windows Phone or other PMP and a good ear for music.


  • The ear phones themselves have superb acoustics with quality construction for the most discerning audiophiles;
  • Excellent array of ear buds for many different tastes and comfort for any ear and fit;
  • Extremely comfortable; even for long periods of time of wear;
  • Fits flush within the ear making them very discrete.
  • Wicked expensive; depending on your taste for quality sound;
  • The PTH (Push-to-hear) option is not a push but rather a slider; i.e., instead of a true click push button;
  • Superfluous amount of cabling just to disable outside ambient noise;
  • The PTH cabling and the ear buds themselves do not fit completely inside the carrying case.
If you listen to music or watch any type of multimedia, these headphones will surely delight you; that is, if you have properly ripped your music and converted your DVDs to a bitrate that is worthy of these ear buds. I personally have a set of Shure's SE530's (yes, I paid for them); but, I use my Windows Phone extensively for music and multimedia. I was excited when the good people at Shure allowed me to test their PTH option. Music is one of the necessities of my life and in my quest I have had many headsets, ear buds, etc. in the past. Aside from having a personal mold made of my ear and sending it to have it fit "perfectly," I have never found a more perfect pair of noise reduction, in-ear set of headphones that make you look like a normal human being instead of a techno DJ with cans on your head. Custom molds can cost in upwards of $1,000 USD or more and although I've always considered it, (stay with me for another review) I've never seen, nor heard, such aural nirvana before as with the SE530s from Shure. In this review it's only fitting to compare the two separate as they can come either together as a kit, or separate, it would not be fair to couple them together. Keep reading to see why.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Zune Originals Rant

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune Talk" @ 03:23 PM

Now that the Zune HD 64 is out, I’m ready to move up to the next generation of Zune devices. Not that there is anything at all wrong with my Zune 80. Quite the opposite really, my Zune 80 is trucking right along! But there is no denying that that beautiful OLED screen is calling my name. I’m also hoping that with Zune becoming part of the Windows Phone 7 OS, there is a chance we might see some meaningful applications released for it.

Unfortunately I can’t make the purchase for a few months. I’m out of the country right now and would have no easy way to get it. On top of that, I can’t even look at it online. International Zune fans, I fully understand your pain now. Microsoft doesn’t even let me look at the Zune Originals site from Australia. I find that ridiculous.

I was in Baltimore last week though for a few days and discovered that maybe Microsoft is hiding the Zune Originals site out of embarrassment. I wasn’t there long enough to consider a purchase but I could at least look at the options on Originals. Maybe I don’t remember very well but I could have sworn there used to be a lot more options than there are now.

Now there are about 30 artist series options, a few horrible video game options (really, they almost all suck), and the option to put the logo from your favorite MLS team on the back of your Zune. Really, Microsoft, we get MLS? I’m sure Microsoft is just trying to get whatever deals they can but sometimes less is more. A device that can be used almost only in the United States can be customized with a sport that no one cares about at all.

The color options were nice but the artwork was really just not very compelling at all. The whole Zune Originals idea is great but if the options are going to be so watered down, maybe Microsoft should just sell Zunes in different colors and do away with Originals all together.

Friday, April 16, 2010

OpenZDK, "First True Hack" for Zune Released

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune News" @ 12:00 PM


"While the XNA game development platform aims to provide a framework that makes game development accessible to the masses, on the Zune this translates to no 3D, no Internet access, and a performance penalty of around an order of magnitude - all when the hardware is right there. That's about to change. Through the work of myself as well as Netrix, Nurta, and the rest of the ZuneBoards Development Front, all Zune models, including the Zune HD, have been hacked. The first true hack available for the Zune, this makes it possible to, for the first time, run applications directly on top of the Zune firmware, with full access to everything XNA withheld before. The limitations of XNA are now no limitations at all."

It's been a long time coming, but it seems Zune's finally got a real hack to call its own. Details are sparse at the moment, but it looks like the ZuneBoards Development team have managed to skirt a number of the restrictions imposed by the sandboxed XNA framework allowing homebrew games to run as first class citizens like their Microsoft-developed counterparts. This means better web access, stronger 3D APIs, and hopefully no device restarting on application exit. There's also talk of an app store similar to iPhone Jailbreak's Cydia app in the works. For now, the release is mostly aimed at developers with a knowledge of C++ and OpenGL (no C# or XNA here), but users can test out the exploit tool now too. Hit up the read link for more information. Here's hoping we start to see some mind-blowing apps soon enough.

Zune HD 64 GB Models Hitting the Streets

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Hardware" @ 11:37 AM


Engadget was sent some images of someone taking photos of their new 64 GB Zune HD, but let's face it, the above photo is as exciting as it gets - these are the same Zune HDs that are already out there, only with more storage. Still, if you've been waiting for a 64 GB Zune, it's finally here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Zune 4.5 Features, Laid Out In Full

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Software" @ 11:00 PM


"1.Smart DJ2.Native AVI and XVID support3.Marketplace on TV-Out...9.In artist view, you can now play all albums or songs, or add them to now playing.10.In the marketplace, you can see more than 3 of an artist's top songs.11.Playlists now have a transparent background in Quickplay...."

Now that the 4.5 firmware has been out for a few days, users have poked through the nooks and crannies to find all the new hotness on offer. If you needed another (or 20-something) reason to update, check out the thread.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Zune HD 64 GB Model Now Available

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Hardware" @ 10:03 AM


Want your 64 GB Zune HD? It's now available from Zune Originals.net, a few days ahead of schedule. It's a good thing I follow certain people on Twitter or I'd never know about these things when they happened. I'm feeling torn about ordering a 64 GB Zune - I'd like one, sure, but I'm still not happy with the way the colours look...the only one that's even vaguely appealing is the black one. They've expanded the artist series designs though, and there are finally some designs in there that are pretty slick. Decisions, decisions...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Zune 4.5 Video Walkthrough

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 07:30 AM


"A couple of days ago I mentioned that there was a Zune HD firmware update available, version 4.5, and then when I arrived home I performed the update. I had to connect a couple of times and prompt to refresh the software update check before my netback found an update available, but then everything went smoothly. In addition to the new features I mentioned earlier there was another surprise in the update, no more commercials in the games."

Matthew Miller over at ZDNet did a nice little video walk through of the new Zune HD 4.5 firmware. I have to say that the features he highlighted looked really nice. Having the Smart DJ functionality available right on the Zune looks like a great feature. I'm definitely a little jealous since I'm still holding onto my Zune 80.

If only they had a Zune HD in sizes larger than 32 GB. Oh wait, it's finally almost here! Finally a Zune HD looks to be in my near future. The only question I have now is will it be blue or red?

Attack of the Leaky Battery

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 06:30 AM


"Tristan tells Consumerist that his Zune was about two years old and out of warranty when it began leaking battery acid on his hand. Appalled at the options that regular customer service offered, he used techniques from the Consumerist toolbox and empowered himself. He used our guide to crafting an Executive E-mail Carpet Bomb, and found contact information for Microsoft executives on the site as well. Getting his case in front of a person with actual authority earned Tristan a free repair of his obviously defective Zune."

This happened a couple weeks ago but it's no less relevant if you have any issues that need to be resolved yourself. I don't think the substance was exactly battery acid as we might think of it in older batteries but no matter what it was, it was still bad that it was leaking from his Zune!

I have to admit, I think it was very nice of Microsoft to offer a free repair of a two year old Zune but that just goes to show you that if you're persistent enough, you can get most anything taken care of. I've actually had an issue resolved by the Consumerist before so I can speak to their effectiveness. I'd highly suggest reading the whole article to learn how you might follow Tristan’s footsteps if you feel you need a little 'extra' help from customer service.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Zune HD 64 GB, Coming April 12th

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Hardware" @ 09:11 AM

It's official - starting on April 12th, you'll be able to order a 64 GB Zune HD from ZuneOriginals.net for $349.99 USD. Microsoft is also lowering the price of the current models; the 16 GB model will be $199.99 USD MSRP, and the 32 GB model will be $269.99 USD MSRP. For all of you who wanted a Zune HD but said you wouldn't buy one until Microsoft offered a 64 GB model, now you have your wish. How many of you will be picking up the 64 GB Zune HD?

Monday, March 29, 2010

64 GB Zune HD Teased on Zune.net

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Hardware" @ 09:28 PM


"The link's dead now, but there's no mistaking the appearance of a Zune HD 64 on the official Zune website. Hey Microsoft, got something you want to tell us?"

Well, it's about time. Ever since the device launched in the fall, there have been rumors of a 64 GB model. It looks like much of the speculation about it coming out in time for the spring update is proving true, as the Zune.net site showed a Zune HD 64 today. It was quickly taken down, but it's likely to be back up again soon when it's offically announced.

I've been saying for months that I was going to hold off getting an HD until the 64 GB model came out. But now that Windows 7 is on the horizon, I'm considering just waiting for my next mobile phone upgrade. What do you all think?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Zune Rumor Mill is Churning

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 07:48 PM

There’s been some crazy rumors flying around today at Engadget about what Windows Phone 7 will be bringing in the way of its multimedia experience. Namely that the media oriented phones will be bringing a Zune experience to the table. While I’ve been out of the Windows Mobile game since I got my G1, this would be great news for the platform, if true. The media experience on the Windows Mobile platform is definitely way behind everyone else.

I think it’s even better news for Zune. I know plenty of people who have Windows Mobile phones who don’t also have a Zune. Subscription music combined with a 3G connection would be a pretty awesome combination.

I hope the rumor is true because I think Windows Mobile (or whatever they want to call it these days) desperately needs something to help it get competitive again. And Zune really needs to be better integrated into Microsoft’s other product lines. Maybe we’ll finally start to see the Zune platform live up to some of the promises that were made years ago when the Zune 30 launched.

Monday, January 11, 2010

22 New Earphones From Sennheiser

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 04:43 PM


"With its expansive new range of earphones, Sennheiser is taking music on the move to another level. Altogether the 22 new models, designed specifically for use with portable players, offer a first-class audio experience and the Sennheiser quality you have come to expect. Each set of headphones features fashion-forward designs to complement any taste."

There is no doubt that the most important accessory that you can buy for your Zune or any PMP is a better set of headphones. And if you were having a hard time deciding which of your options were best before now, well, wait until you check out Sennheiser's new line of headphones! Read more...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Nvidia Announces Next Gen Tegra

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 03:09 PM


Nvidia had their CES press event today and among the announcements were details on the next generation Tegra chip. The Tegra powers, among other things, the Zune HD and from everything I’ve seen it’s a very impressive chip already. The current Tegra runs the ARM11 chip. The new Tegra is going to be running the dual core Cortex-A9.

They also said that there will be 8 independent processors so if I understand the transcript from Engadget correctly, that means 16 cores total on the new Tegra (I didn't understand correctly. Thanks bitbyte for pointing out there are actually 2 Cortex A9 processors). All while only consuming 500 milliwatts. They claim this will allow for 140 hours of music and 16 hours of HD video but of course, that will depend on a lot of factors unrelated to the Tegra alone.

Nvidia’s biggest announcement for Tegra is that it will be powering all Audi cars starting in 2011. I assume that means the 2012 model years but they don’t specify in the live blog on Engadget. There is no mention of the Zune or other devices specifically but they do say there are 50 devices in the pipe for the new Tegra.

I think a combination of Tegra, Windows Phone 7, and the Zune all on one platform could make for a killer device.

Check out the rest of the live blog on Engadget. They have other announcements involving 3D on our laptops, which I’m sure everyone is excited about and lots of great pictures and slides from the Nvidia’s presentation.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Shocker: iPod Wins CNET Prizefight

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 12:34 PM

This is a little after the fact since this has been sitting in my queue for a while, but here we go anyway! This is why I hate that people think the Zune needs applications to compete in the market. CNET’s prize fight is a little absurd because we have two devices that in reality can provide the same service but really don’t do the same thing. I’ll save you the time…the iPod Touch blows away the Zune HD 4.5 to 4.0 in the 5 round fight. But they’re comparing two different things throughout the fight. I feel like they may as well compare a Zune and a Corvette and dock the Zune points for not putting out 400HP. Yeah sure, they both play music!

If you want a device for a little music, applications, games…go get a Touch. If you want multimedia device that’s dedicated to music and video, go get a Zune. They’re just not comparable and not because one is better than the other. If you take away application store out from the Zune equation, and there isn't much you're losing out on, then the Zune is not competing with a Touch at all. But because it has one it does compete. Poorly.

In most reviews I’ve seen, including CNET, the Zune wins on sound and screen quality. The navigation is considered on par with the iPod. Some like the Zune better while others like the iPod better but I think everyone can agree both devices are very good on that front and then it’s just personal preference. Both devices are well liked for the physical design. If I’m looking for a portable media player, the Zune just won on sound and picture. If I’m looking for a PDA, I’m getting an iPod.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

iPod vs Zune HD: Head to Head, IGN-Style

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Hardware" @ 10:30 PM


"Not one to go quietly into the night or vanish without a fight, Microsoft relaunched the Zune with the Zune HD, a direct competitor to the iPod touch. The Zune HD was met with strong launch sales and praised by critics, but only time will tell if it will ultimately usurp the iPod in terms of market dominance. In the meantime, we ask this question of you, our beloved IGN readers: Which portable media player is better in your eyes?"

Oh it's on. IGN, like many other tech sites, has seen fit to pit the two media player juggernauts head-to-head in a battle of brains, brawn, and feature specs. At the bottom of the article, readers voted for their favorite device and discussed the relative merits of the two platforms in the forums. As these things often go, the comments section got a little hectic, but when the poll closed and the dust settled, IGN readers crowned Zune HD champion, eking out its rival a mere 53% to 47%. Booyah.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tegra 2 Details Coming At CES

Posted by Josh Sorenson in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 03:30 PM


"Full details regarding Tegra 2 are unknown, but it's expected to have roughly twice the power and graphical capabilities of the original and be based on 40nm processes. The current-gen Tegra is already capable of 1080p HD video; Hara says NVIDIA's goal is the desktop internet and media experience in a portable device:"

The first Tegra chip is mouth watering enough, but imagine a chip that can handle twice what the current Tegra does. That is just what Nvidia's Tegra 2 is rumored to do. They are set to release more details at CES 2010, including some demo products from their partners. The first half of next year will bring us tablet PCs, smartbooks, netbooks, and MIDs all powered by Tegra 2. Later down the line will we see a second generation Zune HD based off of the new chip? Or a Windows phone? Only time will tell on that one.

Monday, December 14, 2009

ABI's Top MP3 Player Picks of 2009

Posted by Josh Sorenson in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 08:00 PM


"It's that time of year when we lay out our top picks for the year. 2009 was the year of the touch player- consumers demanded them and manufactures responded. If you notice that this year's list resembles last years and that's because many of the manufacturer's this year made some awesome incremental improvements in their current line of players."

Sony Walkman X-1000

Grahm Skee over at AnythingButiPod has come up with a top 5 list of the MP3 Players from this year. My personal favorite, the Zune HD, came in 4th place because of its locked in ecosystem. Leading the pack was the Sansa Clip+ with its cheap price and newly added MicroSD card slot. Are there any players that you think should have been in there? What's your top 5 list of MP3 Players? Let us know in the comments.

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