Monday, 22 February 2016

Windows 10 System Apps Review: Groove Music

Note: This page is a review which forms part of the post Windows 10 System Apps Review

What’s this app for?

With this app you can listen to music (or any audio such as a podcast) you already have on your computer, as well as purchase individual songs or stream music from Microsoft's Online Music Service known as a Groove Music Pass.

Does it do the job it was primarily designed for?

Well, yes. Much like a pencil is a reasonable alternative when you can't find a pen, Groove is an acceptable alternative to everyone's former music player of choice, Windows Media Player (WMP). I've grown to 'love to hate' Groove since adopting Windows 10, after initially spending the first few months alternating between it and WMP. I'm not a big music player on the computer so it suffices for the odd ten minutes when I like to 'rock out' in one of my crazy periods of the day. If you just want to get access to your music and play the thing, Groove can't fail. If you are a music lover who likes to spend hours in your music player and be able to customise metadata for albums or tracks, you'll be pulling your hair out with Groove.

In it's basic window size as a player of music, things are quite ok:

You've got the basic controls down the bottom for jumping to parts of a track, time duration info, previous/next track, pause/play, shuffle and repeat. There's not much more you'd want, unless you were obsessed with WMP and remember the funky visualisations and equaliser settings that you used to tinker with before just putting things back to how you found them. Not everything from WMP has gone though. Playlists are still lurking about under the menu, as is 'find album info' in case you've got missing metadata but there's no rating of tracks any more or manual editing of any track/album names via the app. Argh!

Settings wise, much like the 'Films & TV' app, it's all about Microsoft here. There's links to Microsoft's premium music service as well as links to take you to your Microsoft account should you have issues paying for any music. You can tell the app where to look for audio on your computer, which is undoubtedly useful but also a mandatory requirement these days. Most of the other settings also relate back to music purchased online such as settings for downloading songs you've purchased on other windows 10 device automatically. Oh, the light/black background choice is there too, as is almost obligatory in universal apps these days.

I did once 'purchase' some free songs that were on limited offering via Groove and it was as simple as via any other premium music software so I personally know that side of the app works quite nicely.

However, as said before, the longer you spend in Groove, the quicker it all just becomes a frustrating clunky experience, not least when you use the search facility, which not only annoyingly doesn't clear the last search term you enter but also brings up some unusual suggestions to artists/songs that don't even exist.

Then there's shrinking the size of the app, which makes it look pretty and compact but means you've no way to get to the menu:

Although there are a few nice touches to Groove, such as the taskbar "controller" to enable you to stop/skip tracks, overall Groove is a dumbed down version of WMP that feels as if everything is more cumbersome and chunkier than it needs to be. No longer can you move through your music as fluidly as in WMP, or even see as many tracks/albums on the screen at the same time.  Groove does it's job as a purchaser and player of music but it's really a music app you'd probably not want to spend a lot of time in.

What’s the alternative?

Windows Media Player is still there for the hard-core people but in the days of free music streamers like Spotify, even that can feel outdated and OTT for one's music needs. If you really want to there's always iTunes to play and purchase music although it's easily software that far more bloated and intrusive than Spotify or Groove combined. There are also various music apps in the store if you want to have some fun checking them out.

Hit, Miss, or Maybe?

Maybe; it does an acceptable job for purchasing and playing music but lacks any real charm and user-friendless that one would need to use it for hours without getting frustrated.

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