As a Zune and Windows Media Center owner I have eagerly waiting the new Zune software with its promise of improved Recorded TV and podcast support. As the upgrade is available on Zune.net today I downloaded it and kicked the install off.
After about 10 minutes the software was installed and it was up and running, the new UI is a vast improvement over the old version, it looks like a complete re-write which is good as the v1 software was a customized Windows Media Player.
Once I connected my Zune to the PC the software asked me to update the firmware to 2.2 which took about 5 minutes and the device rebooted a couple of times, I didn’t have to touch the Zune at all. One nice touch is the way it handles connecting your Zune to a second PC, in the v1 software it asked you every time if you wanted to connect as a guest but in the new version you can tell the software to always connect it as a guest. I use my Zune on my UMPC as well as my Media Center PC and it was a pain to keep telling the software to make it a guest.
The new user interface on the Zune device has been improved; it’s clearer and seems faster. The music experience seems the same expect when browsing an Artist you can see their albums on a carousel at the top of the device. Pictures now give a count on the pictures in a folder, I am sure I will find other changes as I start using it.
Podcast support is one feature that I was really looking forward too. With the V1 software I had been struggling to find an elegant way of downloading and syncing podcast. I used Doppler to download the shows then use a monitored folder to do the syncing and I find most of the time I ended up syncing it myself. The other problem was finding the shows on the Zune once they had downloaded, some podcasters don’t tag their shows up as Podcasts so they end up in with the rest of my music. This all changes in the V2 software, podcasting gets its own section in the devices and on the software. Much like iTunes you can subscribe to a podcast RSS feed and it downloads the latest 3 shows automatically and then you can pick what you want it to do with the other shows. I did like the syncing options, you can tell the Zune software to sync unplayed episodes, all episodes, the first unplayed or not to sync at all. I have set it to sync unplayed shows to hopefully it will keep track of what I have listened to and only sync the new ones. This setting is specific to the podcast, so different feeds can have different syncing options. Finding the shows from the Zune is much better, with the dedicated Podcast section and you can easily find and play the downloaded shows. There is also one click subscribe option that podcasters can add to their site
Next I looked at Media Center support
In the videos section of the software I could see my recorded TV shows all I had to do was right click on the show , select Sync and then it copied the show to my Zune. There must be some transcoding going on as it took about 20 minutes to sync a 30 minute TV show and during that time the Zune software was hitting the CPU pretty hard. The size of the TV show in Media Center was 1.08GB and on the Zune it was 429MB but the quality of the video is good but it looks like there is some motion blur, I will have to play with it some more to be able get a more detailed impression
I haven’t looked at auto syncing TV yet
So over all I am very impressed with the new Zune software and firmware, the Windows software is a million miles away from the old software and the syncing options are much better. Basically the whole package now works for me they way I want it to, with TV support, podcasts, wireless syncing and the other new features.
Oh and all this was on my 3 month old V1 Zune 30, well done to Microsoft for supporting the early adopters. Technorati tags: Zune, Windows Media Center