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Microsoft Zune 8gb/16gb Media Player (2nd Generation) (Product Review)

The Zune 8GB has the same form factor as the first generation iPod Nano. Being part of the 2nd generation mp3 player to come out of Microsoft, the Zune 8GB was designed to directly compete with the largest selling model of iPods, The nano. (Microsoft also offers an 80gb and 120gb harddrive version of the Zune (Similar to the iPod classic). But this review will be focused on their mini 8gb/16gb player.)

At 1.4 ounces (47 grams), it weighs about the same as the current iPod Nano. The main difference in the navigation is that while we’re all familiar with the click-wheel, the Zune has a touch pad which allows navigation by sliding in both horizontal or vertical directions as well as click-selection (you can turn the slide pad feature off if you want via the settings).

There are two compelling features the Zune has that the Classic iPods and Nano’s do not have — WiFi (for wireless synchronization) and an FM radio tuner. You can synchronize the music collection in your PC/laptop with your Zune via WiFi so you don’t need to bring the cable connectors all the time except when charging. The Social feature also allows you to share music to anyone who has a Zune, wirelessly up to 30 meters (We were unable to get this feature working with multiple Zune’s hmm. So much for the Social). Having an FM tuner is also a plus, a feature I wondered why Steve Jobs would not add in the iPods. You need to turn off WiFi when not in use so it doesn’t drain the Zune’s batteries.

The Zune Desktop Media player is simple yet does the job well. (This current generation software works very well, That being said it’s still not as polished as Apple’s iTunes software) After registering and creating a Zune account , I was able to login and pull down all the official album art covers of my music into the player. iTunes’ cover flow might be superior but it really looks a bit dull to look at when all you see are gray default album covers. Sound quality is at par (almost indistinguishable) with the iPod Nano, with volume scale from 1 to 20. The good thing about the music management is that you just tell the Zune Desktop player which drive folder to use and anything you drop into that folder gets detected and synchronized into your Zune player on your next synch.

At 320 x 240 pixels, the screen size is just enough though I wish they’d use up all that extra space. Music and video playback is smooth and crisp.

Overall the Microsoft Zune is great leap forward for this product. Microsoft has yet to have anything as close at the iPod Touch which is leaps and bound ahead of any Zune product. But for a standalone iPod Nano competitor the 8gb/16gb Zune is a great little MP3 for the Windows only crowd.

For complete Zune information please visit http://www.zune.net

Pros: Small size, high capacity, light weight, very portable, easy to use, wireless sync and sharing, high resolution screen, touch pad control, Zune Pass (Subscription based music service. Similar to Rhapsody) FM radio.

Cons: Small screen, Zune desktop software is not as easy to use as iTunes, Windows only compatibility. Small number of 3rd party accessories support.