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All posts tagged "hardware"

Monday, July 13, 2009

Shot of Zune HD Marketplace Surfaces, Intrigues

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Media" @ 10:00 PM


I know it's a little late by Twitter standards, but this is a Zune site so why not?

Engadget's Ross Miller doesn't think this picture is interesting by itself. I would both agree and disagree; the picture itself isn't too interesting, but taken in context it reveals a few key tidbits. For starters, it looks like they're retaining the Twist UI paradigm, which was introduced all the way back in Zune 1.0. It looks like the artist views are going to start imitating the "enhanced now playing" in the Zune software a little more, with band pictures and info popping up when you scroll through music (see a better shot here.) Also, it appears that the Marketplace and Collection will begin to look a little more closely related, with dynamically-generated previews of the tracklist shown below the album title and release year (see above.) September 8 can't come soon enough.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Zune HD Rumours: Possible Price Points and Insanely Awesome Battery Life?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 12:44 PM

Another week, another couple of rumours about the forthcoming Zune HD. First up, price points: the 16 GB and 32 GB capacities seem all but confirmed at this point, and now Electronista has some information about the price point of the 16 GB Zune HD being between $249 and $279 USD. The price point make it a little less expensive than the 16 GB iPod Touch, which is a good move for Microsoft. No word on the pricing of the 32 GB Zune HD, but I'd guess we'll see it in the $349 to $379 realm. There's also a rumour about a 64 GB Zune coming "down the road", which isn't shocking - this is all about the price point of Flash, nothing more. Microsoft could release a 128 GB Zune HD, but it would probably cost $899. So for all of you who have full Zune 120s, this is not the device for you.

Moving along to the issue of battery life, we have (supposedly) a Microsoft employee who likes to blab to a fellow named Ryan Rea (Volvoshine), and the result is a claim of 5x battery life over the current iPod Touch. The iPod Touch 2nd gen unit is rated for 36 hours of audio or six hours of video. If the 5x factor proves to be true, on paper at least we'd be looking at 180 hours of audio or 30 hours of video. That seems virtually impossible - I'm expecting to see some battery life gains by moving to the OLED screen and the Tegra chip, but 5x? I'm calling hoax on this one. I hope I'm wrong, because that kind of battery life is game-changing, but when something seems too good to be true, it usually is...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Zune HD Tegra Rumor Confirmed(! UPDATED)

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Talk" @ 08:30 PM


"There is a lot of news circulating today about some rumors of the new Zune HD using the NVIDIA Tegra processor. Several websites have been following the rumor, that started at donanimhaber.com, but apparently no one can confirm whether or not Microsoft's latest portable media player does indeed use NVIDIA's system-on-a-chip design. Well PC Perspective can: the Zune HD does in fact use NVIDIA's Tegra processor. I actually learned this fact from some NVIDIA staffers over at Computex in early June but I guess I just didn't realize how "news worthy" the information was. No longer do you have to worry about "rumors" on the subject - Tegra has its first major design win."

After what seems like ages of speculation, we now have what appears to be a somewhat convincing report from PC Perspective that the new Zune HD will be powered by NVIDIA's awesome Tegra processor. Putting the pieces together, it really does make sense. The Tegra chip is supposed to serve as the base chasis in upcoming Windows Mobile 7 hardware and the demos of what is possible with Tegra are astounding. I don't know of another chip on the market which can support amazng transitions and HD video out all while keeping the power consumption to a minimum. Fudzilla notes:

"Nvidia's Tegra is a great platform and it needs only 150mW to decode a video stream and only 20mW to play audio which makes it a perfect candidate for such players like Zune HD. Nvidia already showed some netbook and tablet products based on Tegra at Computex. These were probably all based on Tegra 650, the high end Tegra part as Nvidia likes to call it, while Zune HD will probably based on the mid-range Tegra 600."

Now bear in mind this is all speculation until we get confirmation that doesn't come in the form of "some guy heard it from some anonymous guy at a press event." But until then I'll continue to ooh and ahh at the demos and dream about the prospects of mobile gaming on this thing. I can't wait to see how it'll turn out.

UPDATE: Matt Aikers, via the ZuneInsider Podcast has confirmed that the chip is in fact a Tegra. Guess we don't need those scare quotes anymore! (Thanks Alber1690).

Zune HD's AMOLED Screen Is A Bright Idea

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 07:40 PM

“Aside from the differentiating core technologies and software that the Zune HD and the Samsung Omnia PRO, the real differentiator--at least at first glance--will be the devices' gorgeous AMOLED displays. The displays will have the ability to render truer and darker blacks, vivid colors, and be more useable even under direct sunlight.”

OLEDs are a technology that we’ve been hearing about for quite some time now. It’s taken a while (far too long by my estimation!) but they are finally beginning to show up in more and more consumer devices. Of course, the one we care most about here is the forthcoming Zune HD. The one feature I’ve asked for time and again is a better display than what the current Zunes have had. The AMOLED will certainly deliver on that mark.

A side benefit that you may notice as you read about this technology is how it affects power consumption. Because the screen is not backlit, only the pixels that are active will draw power. While this could mean that if you decide to have an all black background you’ll use less power, the more practical consideration is that much of the time there are large parts of the display that are displaying nothing. Since the backlight is such a drain on the battery, this alone should significantly benefit the battery life.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The iZel: A Digital Device Holder

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 08:30 AM

The iZel is a small, portable digital device holder (stand) that allows you to easily watch video content in comfort while on a plane, train etc. All you need is a surface to put the iZel on. In the video I test it out with a variety of devices: Zunes, smartphones, an iPod Touch, etc. When I travel, I like to load up my Zune with a movie or two, but I end up holding it in my hand to watch it - not very ideal. The iZel offers a solution to that problem, although depending on the screen size of your device, and how good your eyesight is, watching a video at tray-table height might be difficult. The iZel is made of very durable materials, so it should last a very long time, making it worth the price tag in my opinion (though not everyone agrees). I'll likely be travelling by plane in September, so I'll get a chance to use it in a real-world situation. In the meantime, I'm going to use it as a holder for my cellphone-du-jour, the Samsung Jack. The iZel can be purchased for $24.95 from Amazon.com. [Affiliate]

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

No Zune Left Behind

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 08:30 PM

“Apple's official reason was that the iPhone 3G doesn't have enough power to run those two features. Really? They're saying that on-the-fly voice control (albeit one that doesn't just match what you say to a pre-recorded sample on your voice) can't be done on the iPhone 3G? You mean the same feature that's been available for Windows Mobile FIVE phones for about half a decade now? This can't be done with the iPhone 3G's processor?”

Microsoft has taken a lot of heat over the years on the Zune but the one thing that they simply can’t be faulted on is their long term support of their hardware. The first three generations of Zune didn’t change much in terms of hardware. The firmware, however, has changed significantly.

Every major update has brought the Zune significant new features. And Microsoft has not left any device behind. This is the type of opportunity that Microsoft has to take advantage of. When you’re the underdog, which Microsoft is actually quite skilled at being, you jump on every stumble that your competition gives you and take market share inch by inch. With the economy in the state that it is, consumers shouldn’t be expected to buy a new device for updates that can come from software.

With the Zune, that hasn’t been an issue and hopefully Microsoft keeps this attitude going forward.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Zune HD to Come in 16 GB and 32 GB Capacities?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Hardware" @ 02:00 PM


"The Zune HD also comes with Internet Explorer (with tap-to-zoom technology), which means you'll not only have access to you favorite websites, but you'll also have access to other Wi-Fi features like song sharing, channel streaming, and the Zune Marketplace). Beyond that, the Zune HD has everything you'd expect a PMP to have and the standard Zune stuff, such as podcasts, Zune Pass, games, and a photo viewer. Zune HD is available with either 16GB or 32GB."

We know that the Zune HD is going to be Flash-based, but Microsoft has remained tight-lipped on the exact storage capacities that the Zune HD will be offered with. An Canadian American publication named CRAVE has published an article in which, as you can see by the quote above, the storage capacities are listed in a matter-of-fact way at 16 GB and 32 GB. I emailed the editors at CRAVE last week to ask for a confirmation of this information, because it wasn't presented as a rumour or a "maybe this is what it will have", but the editors didn't reply to my email. So will the Zune come in 16 GB and 32 GB capacities? It seems like a reasonable guess - 8 GB would be too small to be of much use with HD content, and 64 GB would likely drive the price of the device through the roof. So what we're left with is either 16 GB, 32 GB, or both. Will those be the two storage capacities we'll see this fall? We'll see...

UPDATE: The Managing Editor at Crave got back to me, and the author got the 16/32 GB capacity information from this PC World article where they also are quite matter-of-fact about the storage capacities.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Zune HD Listed on Amazon.com

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Hardware" @ 01:16 PM

http://www.amazon.com/Zune-TBA-HD/dp/B001FA1O2C/ref=amb_link_84505111_2?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=top-1&pf_rd_r=0EC57BEES5R6V4FV47VG&pf_rd_t=301&pf_rd_p=479310151&pf_rd_i=zune hd

"Zune HD is the first portable media player that combines a built-in HD Radio receiver, high-definition (HD) video output capabilities, organic light-emitting diode (OLED) touch screen, Wi-Fi and an Internet browser. Zune HD brings a new level of listening and viewing experiences to the portable media player category."

The Zune HD has shown up on Amazon.com, but strangely, there's not much in the way of new information - there's no price, no capacity information, no information about supported file formats, battery life, battery capacity, etc. Some of the other sites that have posted this news are talking up the Xbox Live integration angle, specifically the Xbox Live Arcade games, but without an explicit mention of this feature in the text, I'm highly dubious this is something we'll come fall of this year.

Here's one thing I'm hoping for: the text mentions the dock as being required for HD output, but I wonder if Microsoft will also release a cable that will allow the HD output to function? I can see myself loading up the Zune HD with some content and wanting to plug it into a hotel room TV - assuming that TV has HDMI - and doing so with a cable would be easy for traveling. A dock? Kind of a clunky solution for someone who travels.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Engadget Gets Hands-On Time with the Zune HD

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Hardware" @ 09:43 PM


"We managed to track down the beast and toy with it a bit, and we must say... the thing kind of rocks. In your hand the Zune HD has a nice, solid feel, with good heft to it and a surprisingly thin profile. The OLED screen looks absolutely stunning -- even at severe viewing angles, colors were super bright, edges were crisp, and text looked beautiful."

The lads at Engadget didn't get a video, but they did get a bunch of photos from all sorts of angles - and the Zune HD looks just as drop-dead sexy as I thought it would. It looks very slim and sleek, and more attractive than the rendered photos we posted the other day. Definitely worth checking out the gallery!

Steve Ballmer Shows Off the Zune HD

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Hardware" @ 11:44 AM


Johnny-On-The-Spot, Joshua Topolsky, managed to get a bit of a demo of the new Zune HD from none other than Steve Ballmer himself. Other than saying that the OLED screen is "gorgeous", Topolsky doesn't have much to say about the Zune HD. There's a gallery with some photos that tell a bit more of a story - there looks to be some sort of button at the top, and on Ballmer's Zune HD there's a Zune logo on the lower left - I suspect it's just a sticker indicating that this is a pre-production unit. Take a peek at the photos and tell me if you notice anything else of note...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ars Technica Interview with Zune's Brian Seitz

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Articles & Resources" @ 06:48 PM


"Microsoft last night announced (officially) the Zune HD, even though the device won't be available for several months. While the product itself looks nice, it's the "platform" behind it that is finally coming to fruition and may be Microsoft's best chance at capturing a bigger slice of those home entertainment dollars. We spoke with Brian Seitz, the group marketing manager for Zune, about the new product and Microsoft's larger strategic ambitions. Here's everything you need to know..."

Brian Seitz fills in a few of the blanks that we've been wondering about. First, the connector on the Zune HD is the same as other Zunes, so that means all those Zune accessories out there right now will work. Excellent news! That's what I was hoping Microsoft would do, but you never know sometimes with these big corporations. The Web browser is based on IE6, but unlike the browser in Windows Mobile 6.5 (which it has to be related to), it probably won't have Flash support - but Seitz says it's possible. They're still working on the software it seems - which isn't surprising given the Fall release date. Read more...

Official Zune HD Press Release

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune News" @ 02:00 AM

Microsoft Announces the Expansion of the Zune Entertainment Service to New Platform and Markets; Confirms New Zune HD Portable Media Player

Premium Zune digital entertainment service to be available internationally on Xbox LIVE.

REDMOND, Wash. - May 26, 2009 - Microsoft Corp. today announced the evolution of Zune, the company's end-to-end music and entertainment service, to a new platform and new markets. Zune will extend its video service to Xbox LIVE internationally this fall. This marks an important development in the Zune strategy and brings the Zune brand to more than 17 million international Xbox LIVE subscribers. In addition, Microsoft confirmed the next generation of the Zune portable media player, Zune HD. Available in the U.S. this fall, Zune HD is the first portable media player that combines a built-in HD Radio receiver, high-definition (HD) video output capabilities, organic light-emitting diode (OLED) touch screen, Wi-Fi and an Internet browser. Read more...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Zune HD Size Calculations

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Articles & Resources" @ 11:30 PM


Josh Sorenson from Cruleworld's Lifestream, hit me up on Twitter and let me know he'd done some caculations - the Zune team is being tight-lipped on the specifications of the Zune HD, but assuming that the photos are accurate, with a known screen size we can figure out the size of the device itself. The big deal would seem to be the thickness - a mere 0.35 inches. For comparison's sake, the iPod Touch is 0.33 inches thick, so essentially the same. And that's really thin.

Say Hello to the Zune HD

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Hardware" @ 09:50 PM

See, I had this plan tonight. I was out at a meeting and was getting home a full 45 minutes before the press embargo on the Zune HD was up, so Zune Thoughts would be one of the first sites to bring you the awesome news about the Zune HD. Then a site in the UK broke their embargo and everyone was allowed to publish the news...and I didn't realize that until I got home and checked my email. So that's why Zune Thoughts is bringing you this news late - hopefully when it come to actual hands-on time with the Zune HD, we'll be able to deliver something unique and special. Without further ado, here is the Zune HD and what I'm allowed to say about it so far (yes, there are a few bits of info that I know but can't share yet).

The Zune HD is designed from the ground up to take on the iPod Touch head to head. The hardware design is completely different from previous Zunes - one look at the sleek thinness tells you that. Microsoft wanted to get some information out about the Zune HD, but they're not spilling all the details just yet. Here's what we know for sure. Read more...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bumblebee Prefers The Zune

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 01:06 PM


"One of our staff visited a Chevy dealership to confirm that the new Camaro’s MP3 connectivity kit worked great with production Zunes. The test was very successful - and this culminates a considerable amount of work with both GM in Detroit and their supplier in Korea to ensure a great user experience."

Brian Seitz tweeted this earlier today and it is really exciting news. I'm pretty surprised actually that any car would come standard with connectivity for the Zune. Let's face it, the iPod is so ubiquitous that it makes sense to have standard support for it. But I won't complain! It seems some 28 GM models will be supporting this which isn't surprising since many GM cars share audio components.

But let's not overlook the best part of this. Its the Camaro. I currently own a red 2002 Camaro and I've always been a big fan of the American muscle car. I'm very seriously considering getting a 2011 Camaro next year and this is just icing on the cake. And hey, if Bumblebee prefers the Zune, everyone should!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Zune Originals: Spring Edition And More!

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 10:39 AM


"Starting today, Zune Originals, the online customization store that lets people personalize Zune players with detailed engraved artwork, is releasing a new collection of designs that select artists created to celebrate spring. The Spring Collection features designs from three artists, APAK, Carolina Melis and Linn Olofsdotter and will only be available at ZuneOriginals.net."

By today they really mean about 3 weeks ago since I'm a little behind on my news postings. There's a great collection of spring related designs from the three mentioned artists. All of these are of course only available at the Zune Originals site.

Not only that, I don't know if these other collections were ever mentioned but there are some other very cool collections there and when it comes time for a new Zune I may have to consider one of them. The two that I'm talking about are the Chinese and Western Zodiacs. The zodiacs don't actually mean anything to me but they are pretty cool!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sumo Lounge's Omni: More Than Just a Beanbag

Posted by Darius Wey in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 03:30 AM

Sumo Lounge's Omni isn't just any old beanbag; rather, it's an A-grade beanbag, pillow, and chair. At 4.5 feet x 5.5 feet (1.37 meters x 1.68 meters) and 18 pounds (8.16 kilograms), it's certainly large and solid enough to accommodate two people comfortably, and, incidentally, make you and the courier break a sweat as you both try to fit this behemoth through the front door. But surely there's more to the Omni than its super-sized nature. What makes it stand out?


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

iHarmonix Platinum Earbuds: Easy Listening on the Go

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 07:00 AM

Most of us have a media player of one sort or another. Whether it is an iPhone, Archos or Zune, PMPs typically come with stock earbuds. While great for space and portability, they usually lack decent sound reproduction. iHarmonix manufactures several lines of earbuds to improve upon what comes packed in a tiny bag of cellophane. I had the opportunity to put one of their Platinum ev-Series Earphones through its paces and I was fairly pleased with what I heard. Perhaps as an indication of thoughtfulness, the earbuds thankfully do not come in a cut-my-arteries-blister-pack, but one with a cardboard backing which is much easier to open. Inside, the earbuds came with three sets of ear gels in different sizes, a soft velvety pouch to and a slip of paper to serve as instructions. Read more...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rumor Roundup: Zune HD to Get Pixie Dust, Fairy Wings?

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Hardware" @ 05:00 PM

With the influx of rumors about Microsoft's (unconfirmed) upcoming Zune HD, we're starting to see news that the device will support everthing from wireless streaming of Netflix content to telepathic track switching (not really, but that would be cool). Here are some of the choicer rumors followed by my take.

Zune HD...

  • ...will feature a 3.6" screen. Seems pretty reasonable. The current-generation Zune80s have a 3.2" screen which has been fine. The larger form factor will make it more enjoyable to watch movies, especially with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. My main concern is the effect a higher pixel density and resolution will have on battery life.
  • ...will be powered by Tegra. Check out the video in that article and tell me that it wouldn't be a great way to browse your music and videos. Again, battery life will be an issue, but it might be worth it. Also lending creedence to this rumor is that Microsoft is an official Tegra partner, which is planning on launching mid-2009. Zune is the only portable device I know of that Microsoft makes. Tegra on Zune HD will also make way for more powerful XNA and Xbox game support, maybe this will finally be the Xbox portable?
  • ...is getting HD Radio. Not so sure about this. I don't know enough about HD Radio, but I haven't seen anything smaller than a car-sized unit, let alone implemented on a portable media player. The Sirius and XM players I've seen have been bulky and cumbersome, and I doubt enough people care about HD Radio for Microsoft to waste space with another chip.
  • ...will have flash storage, between 16 and 32 GB. It doesn't make sense to include such a small amount of storage for high definition content. If Microsoft wants to make an impact, they're going to have to release a 64 GB version. Neowin is predicting 4, 8, 16, 32, and 120 GB versions (maybe the HD in Zune HD stands for hard drive?) I'm predicting 32 and 64 GB models.
  • ...will have mini-HDMI out. Again, this would make sense, and could make video out finally useful.

A browser, multi-touch, and an international release should all be a given this time around. Hopefully the other stuff will pan out too. We'll probably learn a lot more as the predicted fall release approaches.

Tags: hardware, zunehd

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tegra To Power Zune?

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 12:27 PM


"Tegra is Nvidia's 1st foray into the mobile computing realm. Nvidia is the company that makes the awesome video cards for your desktops and laptops. Most higher end machines use some type of powerful GPU made by ether Nvidia or ATI. For instance, my Gateway FX laptop uses a GeForce 8800 GTS & my desktop uses a 9800 GTX. Why are GPU’s good for computing? Once again take a look at the laptop. In most laptops the CPU does the heavy lifting for the GPU also, this is called "integrated graphics". In the Gateway FX, a GPU handles the task of blasting pixels to the screen, allowing the CPU focus on more important stuff, like processing and cruching non visual data. A setup like this is called "discreet graphics"."

You have to watch the videos to truly appreciate what this card can do but a device powered by this card would be very impressive. Obviously if I'm writing about it here then it must mean something for the Zune, right? I can't really be sure about that but according to the LiveSide blog, the Tegra is slated to launch in "mid 2009" and Microsoft is a featured partner. There's only one mobile device that Microsoft makes that I can think of. With all of the rumors of the Zune HD we've been hearing about now, could this be powering it?

I really hope so because that would solve one of my biggest complaints with the Zune. I hate that it only has 16 bit color depth. On such a small screen the resolution isn't as important to me as the color depth since color dithering just really stands out to me in videos. With a powerhouse like this as the GPU then hopefully 32 bit color will soon be a reality!

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