Ian Moulster's blog

A Microsoft employee translating Microsoft technology into plain English

Using the radio on Zune HD in the UK

Using the radio on Zune HD in the UK

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I've been playing around with my Zune HD and having great fun with it. I was interested to see how well the radio would work in the UK and the answer is "not too bad". Assuming you adjust the radio options in the settings menu to "Europe", you get reasonable reception with a couple of things to be aware of:

  1.  If the signal is strong enough it will pick up the station name and some additional information about the station. For example, see the image below which shows not only that I'm listening to BBC Radio 1, but also which programme is airing: 


     

  2. There's no equivalent to the US station call sign, so you get a weird collection of letters eg "CFJM" in the above example. If you add the station as a favourite it adds it with this as the label unfortunately
  3. HD radio doesn't work of course because we use a completely different system for digital broadcasts in the UK. However it doesn't affect your ability to listen to normal analogue FM broadcasts
  4. It's worth being aware that the headphones act as an antenna, so make sure they're plugged in and preferably in your ears before trying to tune to a station

One of the best things about the Zune HD so far though? Get this baby out on a train or in any public place and you'll get people looking and wondering what this device is that's so cool but obviously isn't an ipod. Almost worth the entrance fee alone :-)

 

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  • So Ian, how do you recommend other UK residents acquire the new Zune?

  • Hi Matt - it's a fair question. As far as I know the only legitimate way of doing so is to buy one in the US and bring it back with you. Which is fine if you're planning a US trip but you'd have to be pretty committed to make a journey for the sole purpose of buying a Zune. Of course if you know someone in the US (eg family, friends) they could get one and send it to you.

    Beyond that you get into murkier waters that I'm probably not well placed to advise you on. I'm not a lawyer so can't say what's actually legal or not in terms of buying Zunes from people in the UK.

  • Thanks for that, I was looking forward to the Zune HD until I realised it won't come out in the UK. Say if I did get a Zune from US, somehow, what limitations would it have in the UK, functionailty wise?

  • Yeah it's a real shame to say the least. Apart from the radio limitations mentioned above the main feature that you'll miss out on is the Zune Marketplace and the ability to have a Zune Pass. While these are definitely useful and make the Zune experience richer, you don't actually need either of them to use a Zune outside the US.

    The marketplace allows you to buy and download music and movies, and a Zune Pass is a subscription model whereby you pay a monthly fee for unlimited downloads (ie no charge per download, just a flat fee per month and download whatever you want). These will stop working however if you stop your monthly subscription. Napster run a similar model in the UK but the Zune cannot be used for Napster's subscription model.

    Having said all that, if you buy music - either on CD, or download from sites like 7digital.com, or amazon.com, or tesco.com, or whoever, you can absolutely play them on your Zune. And if you download or rip movies or TV shows, as long as they aren't DRM protected, you should be able to watch them on your Zune (I have converted a number of DVDs to watch for example).

    Hope that helps.

  • Thanks, I did used to have an iPod Touch 2nd gen which was great but I actually sold it in order to buy the Zune... which never came. I never used the iTunes store to buy music, all my music is ripped from CDs. If they do finally release it in the UK next year, but I buy it now, do you think it would be possible maybe to install the european firmware and get all the functions that it should do in the UK?

  • If all your music is ripped from CDs then you'll have no problem with a Zune.

    There is no European firmware right now but if (and it's a big if) the Zune ever gets to the UK then I don't know whether you'd be able to convert a US version.

    I would look at it like this: Depending on what's important to you, it may or may not be worth getting a Zune. Obviously you could buy and ipod or other MP3 player in the UK and be able to use all of the features. For my part I like that fact that the Zune is a bit different to the players you can buy in the UK, and of course is a very nice piece of kit indeed. To me, that's worth the pain of having to buy it abroad and not having all of the services easily available. But that's a personal decision I have taken and other people will I'm sure have different priorities. These aren't cheap devices so it's an important decision but I find it's best not to think about it too much :-)

    Certainly I'm very happy with my Zune HD and have absolutely no regrets about buying one.

  • I've just bought a Zune 120 from eBay for use in the UK.

    Most of my music collection is from CDs and was ripped into iTunes.  There was a small amount that was purchased from iTunes, and I upgraded these items to AAC+ format (I.E DRM free).

    My Zune software was able to pick up all the music from my iTunes folder and stick in on the device.

    The marketplace stuff doesn't work, but if you change the regional settings on your PC, it does.  However, you then need a Windows Live ID that has it's location set to US in order to log in (you will then probably need a US credit card to make purchases).  I don't have a US id, so am just using the software to rip CDs and create playlists.

  • Regarding the legitimate buying of Zunes in the UK, www.zunethings.co.uk, i got my zune 80 from there... they import them... now considering buying a zune HD 64 from them...

    encouraging to hear that the zune hd works well here.. does it display artist images/info in the background?

    i read somewhere that the HD radio module could be altered to work with DAB radio in the uk.. so hopefully when this goes international (which with windows mobile 7, this is looking promising) MS will support American Zunes...

  • Hey everyone, I live in the US and love my Zund HD. I was thinking about getting one for my son who lives in the UK, but was curious about something. When you comment on the marketplace working if you set windows to the US region, what functionallity does it have? Can you stream music? Here we can listen to any music on the zune site free (with a zune pass or subscription $15 per month). We can load the music onto the Zune and take it with us and keep it until we decide to delete it. If we want to keep the song, burn it to disk or store it on the hard drive, we have to purchase it (I understand that you can't do that without a US credit card). I read one comment about hearing only samples like on itunes. Is that accurate, or can you use it like here in the US. Thanks for your help, hope Microsoft gets the lead out and launches for you guys soon!

  • Hi Eaglecook - the answer is a little complex. Some things to bear in mind (these are not official Microsoft views or comments, they are my personal views only. I do not work for the Zune team so I have no special insights into their plans):

    1) Today, there is no Zune marketplace in the UK. You can get one if you know someone with a US credit card, or have one yourself. In your case of course, you're covered there. You can also buy the vouchers in the US for 1 month, 3 months etc and use them in the UK

    2) Assuming you can get one as per above, the Zune pass works fine in the UK with one exception: you can't download or view movies. Everything else works though eg streaming music, loading it up onto your Zune, using your free 10 song credits etc.

    3) Zune marketplace will launch in the UK soon - once the Kin phones launch and then later the phone 7 launches. Whether this means you'll be able to use Zune marketplace on your Zune player is unknown

    4) Remember also that the Zune marketplace as it stands today is very US-centric. Quite a bit of UK music is not available on it. I don't know if that will change when it launches in the UK. Whether that's important to you or not depends on your personal tastes.

    So you can either set up a Zune pass now and get your son a Zune HD (which is still the coolest music player on the planet), or wait for the Kin or Phone 7.

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