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Zune is able to accept pretty much every media format under the sun, or at least can once someone's installed something like the KLite Codec Pack. However, it does do conversion on your behalf to a more supported format when you try to sync the contents over the Windows Phone.

I'd like to not have to wait for the really slow process of doing the conversion... how do I know which media format to download?

(For example, there are 5 media formats available for each of the MIX sessions....)

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Zune seems to favor WMA and MP3 for audio without converting, up to 320 kbps. JPG and PNG images are also supported. But Zune will almost always convert video files. The exact type of video depends on what model of Zune or Windows Phone you have, so determining the type of video (frame size, framerate, etc.) is difficult. Certainly anything that isn't WMV will be converted.

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Hmm... it doesn't seem to convert MP4s.... – Billy ONeal May 4 '11 at 15:26
@BillyONeal Zune can put MP4's directly on the to Zune, it supports MP4 natively, AFAIK. – studiohack May 14 '11 at 0:00

The best list I found for acceptable Zune/WP7 formats is located here:

If you're mostly concerned with videos - just convert to .mp4 container with H.264 or MPEG-4 codec. Personally, I always convert all my videos with an app like Freemake Video Converter before adding them to Zune/WP7. Freemake is super fast if you have a powerful graphics card that supports CUDA (about 2-3 mins per TV episode).

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