Zune: A music streaming experience

So, the lovely people over at microsoft gave me a month trial of their Zune music service and I gotta tell you, it was really great. And this came as a surprise considering a lot of people had told me it was lame and other such things.

I’ll begin with the computer aspect of the service. This of course runs through the Zune application for windows, which has a pretty swell interface, and just generally looks pretty flashy. With the Zune Pass as it’s called, you get access to every song they have on their database, in a very similar manner to Spotify. And like Spotify, you can download the songs to your computer for offline listening should you need to ever go offline. Which, let’s face it, will never happen unless your net just cuts out. Anyway, another thing I noticed was the quality of the audio was slightly better on Zune than Spotify. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, but it just seemed better, though that could have been the software. Another awesome feature on Zune is it’s Smart DJ playlists.This is very similar to how last.fm runs things. For those of you who are unfamiliar with last.fm it’s a service where you can search for an artist and then listen to music that is related to that artists. Well, smart DJ is very similar where you have a main artist and then it creates a playlist with songs from that artist and then similar artists. One advantage to this, is that you can see what is coming up next and can skip straight to a song you know, or skip a couple that you know you hate. It is a great way to find new music.

The next aspect to the Zune Pass involves your xbox 360. Yes, that’s right guys, you can stream the music straight to your xbox and have it play through your killer sound system attached to your xbox. This is a great way to listen to music, as not only does it mean you have it playing on, potentially, the best speakers in your house for the best quality, but it adds a really cool background image for the music. It’s hard to explain, but please enjoy the screen shot that will try and explain it better than my words. The Smart DJ feature is also present on this version of Zune too, which is awesome and means that if you’re having a party, you need not worry about making a killer playlist, let Zune do it for you. That’s what I did, and I turned out just fine. With the xbox version, you cannot save the songs to your hard drive as far as I’m aware, but if you can, that’s awesome, and I need to know how!

The final aspect to the Zune Pass involves your Zune device. That’s right you crazy cat Americans, if you have a Zune device that has the capability of accessing the Zune marketplace you can access this awesome service. And have no fear anyone outside America, you get this service right on your Windows Phone 7 device. It’s pretty awesome. Now, the features of this version are very similar to that of the PC version to be honest, you can search for a song and stream it straight from there, or you can choose to download the song for listening later. You can’t however access the Smart DJ playlists but I’m going to assume that’s to save you on data costs as using your mobile network to stream music can be quite an intensive thing to do. One last killer feature is that you can sync your music from your computer straight to your Zune device, and as most feature the whole new wireless sync dealio, it means you can have seamless access to what you have on your computer, on your Zune device. I can’t figure out if it goes the other way, but to be honest, I’ve downloaded everything to my laptop anyway and then synced it for on the go listening.

In my honest opinion, this is a great media service, though the media database at the moment isn’t as big as Spotify, I can only assume it’s going to keep increasing over time, and for ¬£8.99 a month – $14.99 in the America place that’s over the sea – it’s a real bargain. And even though films aren’t included in the Pass, you can still find them in the same place. Almost perfect media integration! And here’s one more picture for you, if this doesn’t way you, i’ll be hurt!

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Ilomilo Review

Here is something i haven’t done, XBLA game reviews. Well, i’m going to kick off with an absolute cracker of a game. Like, seriously, if you have an xbox 360 with live, or a Windows Phone 7 phone, you should get this game. It is AWESOME!!!

Right, i’ll kick off with the main idea of the game. It’s a puzzle game where you play as two characters that are trying to find each other in this cuboid sort of world with several different environments. However, you can save these little things at the same time to unlock more stuff in the game. On top of this, there are these¬†collectibles on the floor which help unlock memories which add more depth to the game. As the game progresses, the puzzles get more and more challenging.

Right, so the gameplay itself is very basic, which just adds to how awesome this game is. All there is to do, is:
Move;
Pick up usable items;
Collect memory bits;
Save the little things;
Find your friend.

That there, is the whole game in a nutshell. During the game as well, you can switch which person you are using, adding to the puzzle solving aspect of the game. This means you sometimes have to think a lot about what you are going to so. The usable items are wicked too. So far i have encounter 3 types of them: Fill in a single gap block, extending to fill a bigger gap block and the trap door block. These aren’t the real names, but that’s what they do, so i thought it would be appropriate to put it that way. Another wicked feature of the game are these sections that you can walk onto which changes the side of the block you are on. The whole world seems to move and it looks awesome. The sounds and music in this game are also amazingly cool.

Overall this game is amazing and for 800MSP (XBLA) or ¬£3.99 (WP7), it’s pretty well priced. Especially as it is the most addicting game i have played since Angry Birds. This game gets a staggering 9.9/10.

HTC HD7 Review

So, I acquired the HTC HD7 on release date, and replaced my iPhone. One thing i never thought i would do, and it’s one thing that Tom said i would do. Made me laugh anyway

So, let’s get on with this. The HTC HD7 is pretty big as it rocks a 4.3″ WVGA screen. In comparison to the iPhone 4, the clarity isn’t too great, but the size really helps as it is nearly a whole inch bigger. And as this is the first thing you see, i feel they have done a good job there. After this, it’s the boot time of the phone. Now, the iPhone 4 booted a lot faster than the 3GS, but the HD7 is something else when it boots. It’s so much quicker than any other phone i have used before. It loads in about 10 seconds, which is a lot better than the 20 – 30 the iPhone took. Well, mine did anyway. One major factor in this speed is the 1GHz processor it has. It’s the same clock speed as the iPhone, but the other thing that assists with this is the fact the HD7 has RAM and ROM.

As far as i’m aware, the iPhone 4 has 512MB of RAM, which, supported by the processor and the OS, is still very snappy. The HD7 however, has 576MB RAM and 512MB ROM. The ROM is dedicated to the phone’s OS, windows phone 7, and really helps with the running of apps, and the like. Since using the HD7 i haven’t noticed any lag at all, and no crashes other than OS and App related mishaps. In terms of speed, the HD7 is lightning fast compared to the iPhone 4.

Now, the OS is something of awesome on the HD7. Windows Phone 7 is a massive improvement to Windows Phone 6.5. It’s a lot quicker, and far more user friendly. The main screen is called the Start Screen and on it you can pin your apps and other useful thing like your calender. On top of that you can re-arrange them to how you want them. This is very similar to iOS and Android, but it has a fresh feel with the updating images and such. If you swipe left, you get your menu that has all your apps on. And this is good for the apps you don’t use that often. They are stored alphabetically, which makes them very easy to find. The one thing that is lacking on the main interface is folders. I would like to keep similar apps in folders, like on the iPhone, but you can’t win them all.

There are two features of this phone, and windows phone 7 that i love. The first is the facebook integration. It’s very similar to that of WebOS, but with a few awesome extras. Right, so all your contacts sync with facebook, as they all go into your contact list on the phone. It also downloads their contact pictures off facebook to, so don’t worry about taking photos of everyone you know. Here is where it gets good though. Straight from the contact list, you can write on your mates wall. This is pretty swell, and loads faster than loading up an app, so if you need to get to someone on facebook, it’s simple and fast. Just to top this feature off, microsoft made it so your friends news feed is in the contact list as well. It’s superb! I know what everyone is doing without having to open an app.

For me, one of the most intriguing features is the Xbox Live app. This is real Xbox Live. And with the Xbox Live Extras app, it just gets better. From your phone, you can see your gamerscore, message your Xbox Live friends and earn achievements from the Xbox Live games! It’s AMAZING!!! The games, are brilliant. I have 3 myself, and need to get more, but i don’t have the funds. From the games i have played, they are brilliant. And with the Xbox Live features, i see developers taking the platform in their stride and making some awesome games. It was said that you can start playing a game on your xbox and then continue on your phone later, how true that is at this time, isn’t clear, but that would be epic.

I haven’t covered all the features here, but i’ll give a quick run down now:

  • The phone has a 4.3″ WVGA touch screen that just blows away most competition
  • It uses Dolby Mobile technology for crystal clear phone calls
  • It sports Windows Phone 7, which is brilliant and a real contender in the market
  • Facebook, contacts and e-mails sync effortlessly
  • The OS up-dates over the air, which is useful if a computer isn’t handy
  • Records 720p videos and has a 5 megapixel camera
  • Has xbox live integration which gives for fantastic games
  • Has a built in FM Radio receiver for on the go listening to the radio

Overall, this is the best phone i have had in a while. Some of the features are just awesome. It’s a shame the multi-tasking is a lame/non-existent and the Internet Explorer is on there. I’d give it a solid 7.5/10