After Hours

Cracking open the Microsoft Zune (2nd generation)

By Mark Kaelin

The second generation Microsoft Zune media player is that company's answer to the various iPods Apple has put on the market with at least video and MP3 capability. As a general purpose media player, the Zune is more than serviceable. It is not spectacular, but the Zune does just what you expect -- play music and videos, display pictures, and manage your media library. But the question remains -- what the heck is inside. In this TechRepublic Cracking Open Photo Gallery we examine what is actually in a Microsoft Zune.

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

26 comments
jorgelombardia
jorgelombardia

I think documentation should be on-line, being offered at screen when device powers up first time and on demand later on. Don't tell me they don't have enough resources to do that.

liuycai
liuycai

the CPU is FREESCALE's multimedia chip

cgarrison
cgarrison

If there is a difference it would be in the chips. You should opened one of them and looked at it under a microscope. I wonder, would there would be an "Apple" logo?

t_lecaillon
t_lecaillon

I sure appreciate the way you showed the screws...saves player lives! Cosmetics... kind of boring...looks like an engineer designed it... stop being cheap Microsoft...hire some good designers (or steal them from Apple)

Roc Riz
Roc Riz

My friend, Euripides Upmann is a documentation specialist, who is finding a hard time finding much work these days, because most printed documentation costs these corporations lots of money, and not too many people actually read it, they use them for kindling, or they end up in the landfill, or, as his name states, they get torn up! ;-)

flodur2
flodur2

I agree the documentation is inadequate, even unacceptable. Operation of a device such as the Zune intended to be popular should be largely intutive but some instruction and explaination is necessary. Such documentation is not included.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

You killed it! Last time I saw something like that was when a co-worker dropped a laptop.

zage
zage

I remember a year ago my wife was deciding to buy me a player as a gift. I comment her to wait for Microsoft Zune hit the market. She didn't wait for my opinion first and bought it. After she gave it to me, I started evaluate it. Sincerely, it was and is a piece of crap. Come on, Microsoft you can do something more impressive than that; this second gen is the same crap as the original. They are as user friendly as the command prompt operating system is with the computers. After I evaluate the Zune I comment to my wife that something that could be great was to eliminate all physicals controllers and make them virtually with the firmware and accessing them with a touch screen. Well, I thing I got a spy microphone in my house 'cause that was Apple did with they iPod Touch. I'm not an Apple fan (see note below)...so I hate they came with my idea first...ARGH!... But there are a great alternative for those who likes the iPod Touch features but doesn't agree with its price...look at the Super Talent VideGo28...I prefer it more than the other two (and others)...look at it @: http://www.supertalent.com/products/flashlandingdetail.php?sid=072b030ba126b2f4b2374f342be9ed44 NOTE: I hate Apple and Sony (I think the same about Sears) expensive products. They are great products, but are manufactured for exclusive people or high society. There are other technology companies with great products too, but for less...Why they have to rise the price?? do they thing that having the highest price make their product better than others??..come on!!! Well I will prefer and continue buying the other ones, they are almost the same or maybe better quality and for me they worked great and still functioning.

liuycai
liuycai

the CPU is FREESCALE's multimedia chip

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

It still works great. I've only lost one MP3 player so far.

Jim_P
Jim_P

Well not sure about anyone else. But I wouldn't buy an IPod either. No better. They might be more reliable. But I don't like the idea of using iTunes. I prefer the MP3 players that you plug in and they come up like an external hard drive. Copy your music straight over.

ke9fh
ke9fh

First let me say I love people that buy new gadgets before they do any research and have no idea on how technology works. Then they try and make it work outdated computers, and then sell it on ebay for next to nothing. I have a new pc and loaded the zune right up and the thing worked like a champ. As easy as an Ipod without all the pains. I want any mp3 on my pc just drag it to the interface and bam! there it is Podcasts are great, and Wow, record media tv on my pc and drag it to the zune and I have my favorite tv shows whenever I have a spare minute. I got my 30 gig zune for 100 bucks and Id buy a few more if I really could stand waiting in lines during sales or catch another ebay deal At least you arnt't supporting Apple ( The real Big brother crooks of the world) Search the 85,000 iphone bill or how you have to licensse things through apple if you want to sell them... IE addins and software. Ill take a billion dollar company that comes right out and tells you they are stealing from you, than one that does it behind your back. Way to go and if they have a zune touch next year I'll buy one of those too.

steve
steve

Hi - That's funny, I had exactly the same reaction you did about the Zune - the UI is >C: (!!) I also agree with your comment about Apple, Sony, and, no, I don't shop at Sears either. Yes the products are expensive but you get what you pay for in terms of usability and human factors. Listen, I don't even watch television because I abhor the advertising, and I KNOW that Apple, Google and every other consumer electronics company has my number, but to me, Apple products are worth it. By the way, I installed Vista via Parallels on my Mac and un-installed with a month because (sigh) it is still Windows, and I got tired of wrestling with spyware and windows update. Further comments on human factors engineering on my blog

elandwehr
elandwehr

I have been shopping for the Zune or IPOD and after seeing your post on the Super Talent VideGo28 I looked into it. It was a great alternative to the Zune or IPOD. The price was so good I bought 4 of them with the mini SD cards for gifts. Thanks

AlphaDawg
AlphaDawg

I was going to purchase an IPod, but when I heard the Zune would support the .WMA format (my entire library is WMA) which IPod won't, I decided to wait. I've had my 30 gb Zune for about a year now. Maybe my satisfaction bar is a bit low. The Zune is reliable, plays my music, the video screen is great, and the latest version of the Zune software does a nice job of helping me maintain the library. That's pretty much the gamut of my needs for an mp3 player. The Zune Marketplace still has a ways to go, but is improving at an encouraging pace. In summary, the WMA support helped me make my purchase decision, and I'm happy with it. Apple would have another customer had they supported WMA. If Microsoft had made a similar decision, Apple lawyers would have descended from the Heavens with lawsuits.

Ken Ga
Ken Ga

I purchased a ZUNE for my wife as a Christmas present last year(2006) and had difficulties hooking it up to Windows XP machine. I spoke with Microsoft's third country support desk which took a while to get through the huge language barrier, I was told that I had to upgrade my Media Center from 2003 to 2005. I then proceded to Microsoft's website and downloaded files and ultimately the upgrade made my computer run slow and keep locking up. I then had to reload the OS. I then tried to return the piece of crap, I couldn't since it was past the 30 day return policy(no consideration that it sat under the Christams for several weeks waiting to be opened). After having the Zune lay around like and being used as a paper wieght, I took it to a pawn shop for someone other victimless Ba$-@rd to deal with. Microsoft's software should give you the option to load their standard software or to use the Media Center, instead of forcing you to use Media Center as your primary software. At least I was told that it use Media Center, but can't confirm it since the software would never load onto my machine. I paid $250 for it and sold it for $80, great going Microsoft, can wait for your next useless device to be released to the public. For those interested in an MP3 player, BUY IPOD, I wish I had!

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

I found this generation of the Zune to have an interface comparable to the iPod. The physical operation is a little different, but I could get used to it. The software has too many menus, but I find that the IPods do to. I just want to push a button and listen - that's why I prefer my Shuffle. Your suggested player looks interesting, perhaps we'll get one and Crack It Open.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

I'm not a hardware person, so when I see guts it's because the machine is dead.

ohappy
ohappy

I bought my Zune Oct 2006...and love it...I use Windows XP Media Center Edition Version 2002 with Service Pack 2, and haven't had a single problem with it.I even took it to the hospital with me for 2 days and watched movies and listened to music. The software is great, and don't have one single complaint about it. Free software upgrade recently...I don't really care for the software on the computer now, a little different to use, but Zune is great will even sync to my computer wirlessly now with the new upgrade. Definetly recommend this product.

aswift
aswift

No matter what device you buy there is always going to be a few incompatabilities. I work with electronics and computer technology. I can assure you there is always a fly in the ointment. The Zune works.. the Ipod works.. they both require specific software. So, what is the problem? I have a small library of 1200 songs that I have on my device. I just use my media player of choice and Viola! By the way, I use a cheap mp3 player Iriver(*note I also own 2 Ipods and a Zune) and never experience any of these issues. It plays my music - mp3, wma, usb interface.. there you go. The price of having the best technology.. Go figure

bwdavis_3
bwdavis_3

Let me clear the air for you... Zune dosent use media center it has its own personal software. U needed to update from 2003 to 2005 because Zune requires (and every other program) a updated version of Windows=2005 media center. Your PC was so slow it couldnt HANDEL 2005 (dosent suprise me). If you still wanted to take it back you could have just gotten a extended warrenty (wats the point of having a warrenty if for it whole warrenty its under a tree, money well spent) or bought it at a Sam's Club. So dont talk crap without know wat crap is.

calvin
calvin

That's a sad story. I only had one problem the songs in my collection wouldn't sycnh if I tried to add them in browse mode. I had to go into list mode and highlight the longs I wanted. Then everything worked fine.

bnordberg
bnordberg

After having 2 IPOD Mini's die on me, my wife decided to get me a 30GB IPOD Video. I too received mine for Xmas. And it sat under the tree and chewed up most of Apple's warranty. Itunes made my machine unstable and was soooo slow. After 2 weeks it gave me the sad mac, Apple tech support helped me revive the Ipod once. Then it died again and they wanted to charge me $50 for the second phone call with no guaranteee they could fix it. I dedided it was not worth it and sold it as non-functional. At least you got $80 out of it. My suggestion is to avoid all hard drive based MP3 players - stick to a cheap flash based that won't make you cringe when it dies.

Ken Ga
Ken Ga

I can clearly see that your technical expertise is as savvy as your writing ability. Now who's the dult!

Ken Ga
Ken Ga

Which version of Media Center do you have? I'm thinking that my problem is due to me having an older version of Media Center, that's why Microsoft should give you the option to use Media Center or allow you to load the standard Zune software.