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Back to Accessories and Reviews page

January 10, 2007

Review: Home A/V Pack

zune home av pack

The Home A/V Pack is one of three Zune-branded accessory bundles, released by Microsoft at the time of Zune's launch in November.

We finally got our hands on the A/V Pack, and after a couple weeks of using it, view it as one of the "must-have" accessories for Zune.

Read on for our photo review.

Packaging. The Home A/V Pack comes in an attractive, gift-worthy package with a display window showing all the cool parts in side, and hiding the accompanying wires and cables. The packaging recalls the simple packing style of Zune player packaging.

What's in the box. Clockwise from top left, you get an AC Adapter, a simple "Start" guide, a Product Guide, A/V cable (headphone jack on one end, and white/yellow/red AV connectors), sync cable, wireless remote, and dock.

A closer look. Roughly the size and shape of a hockey puck, the dock has recesses for your Zune player, and for the wireless remote. It's an attractive look with a metallic chrome finish.

Pictured below is the dock with a white Zune player and the wireless remote in place. The closeup shows the rear connectors: one for the sync cable, and one for the A/V output cable's 1/8" stereo jack.

The underside of the dock has a ring of non-slip rubber which helps it stay in place. The top of the dock is actually a removable insert; the idea of this is that the dock can be adapted to hold future Zune players. Nice touch!

The wireless remote is a nice size - compact, but not so tiny that it gets lost in your hand. The controls are modeled after the player itself, with back and play/pause buttons, and a circular control pad. It also has separate buttons for volume controls (below the control pad), and previous/next controls above. The latter buttons are there for convenience; they're redundant in that you can access the same functions using the control pad.

zune home av pack

The cover of the remote slides back to reveal a CR2032 Lithium battery. The remote is magnetic, so you can hang it on your fridge, or any handy metal surface.

The AC adapter is nondescript and boxy compared to smaller travel adapters that are available. You connect the adapter to your Zune using the included sync cable.

The A/V output cable has a 1/8" headphone jack on one end, which goes into a connector in the rear of the dock. (It can also plug directly into the headphone jack of your player, if for some reason you want to bypass the dock.)

On the other end it splits into three A/V male connectors, or what my Dad would call RCA plugs. Red and White are for audio left and right channels, and yellow carries the video signal.

The sync cable is identical to the one that came with your Zune player.

Setup. Setup is very simple. Plug the A/V cables into your TV's Audio In and Video In connections. Connect the sync cable to the AC adapter, and plug the USB end into the dock.

Performance. To direct the video signal from your Zune to your TV, go to your Zune's Settings menu, select Display, and toggle TV Out to "on". At that point, your Zune will go blank and the menu will appear on your TV screen (pictured). You can use the controls on your Zune player, or use the wireless remote, to navigate through menus and perform any Zune function - all the while with the display appearing on the TV screen.

I was pleased with audio performance; the Zune's music sounded great coming through my home stereo speakers. Volume can be controlled either through the stereo or through the wireless remote (or, for that matter, through the control pad of the Zune player).

I was fully prepared to dislike the video display - after all, the Zune player outputs only 320x240 video. This is low-resolution, and is a shortcoming of Zune compared to, for example, the video iPod, which can output 640x480 video. To my surprise, though, I found the video very watchable on my 24" television. In fact, after I hooked it up, my family and I spent an hour enjoying old family videos and an old Arthur video; we didn't find the images grainy, at least not in any distracting way.

Pictures also display clearly. You can watch slideshows and the pictures are quite sharp. This also was a pleasant surprise; even at the 320x240 output resolution, I would not hesitate to use this as a method of viewing family pictures.

And, while you probably have an FM radio in your stereo, I actually find the Zune's FM radio easier to use than the interface on my Panasonic home theatre setup. This will probably be my preferred way to listen to FM radio, when one of our Zune players is in the dock.

  Company: Microsoft
  Model: Home A/V Pack
  Price: $99.99 list price; selling on Amazon at time of this review for $75.68.
  Amazon link: Zune Home A/V Pack
The high-quality components in this kit look good and perform well. You'll get a lot more in-home use of your Zune with this pack. In fact, we'd consider it a must-have Zune accessory.

Zune accessory - Recommended by Zunerama


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