If you listened to the latest MobileTechRoundup episode you know that I won the right to buy a Zune from Amazon for $90. I picked up a white one and decided to give it to my wife for Christmas to replace her aging iPod. Great minds think alike and I was surprised to find my own Zune under the tree on Christmas morning making us a two Zune family. I couldn’t wait to get my black Zune installed and loaded with some tunes so I set out to install the Zune software that came with the player. It would be a long day from that point forward.
I popped in the included CD and fired up the installer which proceeded to run for about 30 minutes, something I thought was odd. I was impressed that the installer checked for a firmware upgrade and installed it to bring the Zune up to the current level, but that didn’t explain how long the installer was running. I dutifully went through the process of naming my Zune (NoPod) and telling it to use my existing Windows Live account instead of creating a new one. That’s where the process got really difficult. The installer would pop up a “signing into Zune” dialog box and then sit there forever. I literally had to open up the task manager after 30 minutes and kill the install process.
I went through this same process three times with the same results and since we had to leave to visit relatives I decided to abort the attempt and take the now fully charged Zune player with me to play with the preloaded music and video content. I am very impressed with both the audio and video quality of the Zune and I quite enjoyed playing with it during the day. My relatives were also impressed with the thin and light Zune.
When we returned home in the evening I started up again with the same results. I decided to uninstall and start over from scratch to see if that would work better. This turned out to be a big mistake. On the next install attempt the installer wouldn’t let me use the same Zune name as it indicated it was already attached to my existing Windows Live account, even though it had never been able to actually sign in and complete the install process. It would still just hang at the logging in process, just like in the morning. The frustration was really mounting now.
I decided to step away from the black Zune and install my wife’s white one on her Tablet PC. Talk about a totally different experience! The entire process took only 10 minutes including setting up a new Windows Live account from within the Zune installer. Her existing music library was synced over and the whole process took less than 30 minutes. Since both Zunes came with a 14–day free trial of the Zune Pass, the $15 monthly unlimited download subscription, I signed her up and download a few songs to test it out. It worked nice and fast and I enjoy the Zune Marketplace (ZM) interface. It looks good and is quite functional. I was a bit surprised that the songs I downloaded wouldn’t sync to the Zune at first. The error message indicated that the attached player was not compatible with the Zune Marketplace, even though it was a Zune and it was the ZM. I disconnected the Zune and reconnected and the music would then sync properly. That was a relief.
Buoyed by my success installing my wife’s Zune I approached getting my Zune working with new gusto, only to find the same problem as before. I decided to create a totally new Windows Live account just for the Zune and I went back to my wife’s computer to do so. After a 10 minute process of creating the new account I got an error message informing me that the Windows Live servers were down and to try again later. A ha! This was the likely culprit even though no feedback from the Zune installer indicated there was any problem. I’ll bet the Windows Live servers were slammed by all the people who also received a new Zune for Christmas and I must have hit a lucky window with my wife’s Zune install.
I tried one more time to run the installer using the NoPod Zune name and my existing Windows Live account and voila! It worked and then connected to the ZM and began syncing my existing library over. When that process completed, which took over an hour due to a few video reviews I wanted to carry around on the Zune, I was finally able to play around with the ZM. I downloaded a bunch of albums and they synced over dutifully and quickly. I will say it again, I am very impressed with the audio and video quality of the Zune.
So there you have it, a tale of two Zunes and two totally different experiences out of the box. If the problem was a Windows Live server issue then it should have been made a lot clearer from the Zune installer. One issue that needs to be addressed though is because I uninstalled and reinstalled the Zune software the sync process removed all of the preloaded content that comes with the Zune. It’s just gone and there seems to be no way to get it back, which is a shame because there were a couple of things on there that I really liked. I’ll bet the Zune tech support number was ringing off the hook last night because I can imagine that some newbies would have given up right away.
Since we have two Zunes in the house I was able to test “squirting” songs from one to another and it worked very well. The Zunes were able to see each other with no fuss and the songs transfer wirelessly very quickly. Of course they will only play for 3 days or 3 times until they time out but since we both are on Zune Passes if we like it we can just download for keeps. Until we forget to pay the subscription fee, that is.
Along with my new Zune I also received a Monster Zune SlimCharger to keep the Zune charged without a computer. It is very thin as the plug folds back into the charger and the 6 foot cord means I can keep the Zune charged from just about anywhere. I did find it odd that the charger requires the use of the Zune’s USB cable. You can’t charge with just the Monster charger since instead of a Zune connector at the end they put a female USB port. You have to use both pieces to charge the Zune, even though the Monster charger is labeled as a Zune charger. I’m happy with it though and am busily enjoying listening to music on my new Zune so if you call me and I don’t answer it’s because I can’t hear the phone.