We’ll just come out and say it: The 80GB Zune trumps the iPod Classic…For the same $250 price as the 80GB iPod classic, the new Zune 80GB offers a much larger screen, FM radio, wireless player-to-player sharing, Wi-Fi syncing with your PC, and a rear panel that can be customized with some cool artwork–for free. Simply put, Apple is no longer the leader in the realm of hard drive-based players. While the Zune 80GB and the iPod classic are both outstanding devices, the Zune has more features–and it’s more fun.
The 80GB Zune cuts a much slimmer figure than its bricklike older brother. Measuring 4.3 inches high by 2.4 inches wide by 0.5 inch deep, Microsoft shaved some considerable bulk off the Zune’s thickness, while nearly tripling its capacity…we believe the latest crop of Zunes should finally take hold as a true iPod alternative. (83/100)
All of the new Zunes are built around a rounded touch-sensitive control that also doubles as a clickable d-pad-style controler, much like the Click Wheel on Apple’s iPods. Flick your thumb up or down the pad repeatedly, and you begin to build up momentum while scrolling through long lists. At any time, you can tap to stop the scrolling, though it will eventually come to stop naturally. In my experience, it’s a very fun way to navigate through a music collection, even in a long view of artists on the 80GB player…All in all, the 80GB Zune is a decent choice as an 80GB MP3 player. (no score at this time)
Video performance is very good, with the screen size really helping…Battery life didn’t meet the published specs of 20 hours for music and 4 hours for video with the Wi-Fi turned off. My rundown test on music was 18 hours, and video was 3.5 hours, which is, you know, fine…. Would I recommend the Zune? Yeah, I think I would. If you’re not invested in the iPod/iTunes ecosystem, it’s the most polished competitor I’ve used to date. Especially if you’re looking for a subscription service, the integration of player and service just crushes everyone else. (6/10)
…the most innovative new feature on the Zune: wireless syncing. Setup was a piece of cake: you just connect the Zune to your PC via USB, fire up the Zune software, and enable wireless syncing under the Settings menu. If your system is already connected to a wireless network, those settings are transferred to the Zune automatically—no need to key in the access point name or password…automatic syncing only works when the Zune is plugged into its charging dock. Overall, I thought wireless syncing worked pretty seamlessly, and I loved being able to sync new songs and playlists over the air (why can’t the iPhone or the iPod Touch do this?)
The Zune Marketplace website looks better than iTunes because it feels less like a spreadsheet. It still uses the MTV Urge back-end but is completely redesigned…. All of these things represent improvements that allow Microsoft to claim that it is going its own way. Clearly, they aren’t copying Apple…At this rate of improvement, Microsoft will be a contender. But it has a long way to go before it keeps Steve Jobs up at night.
For more on customized “Zune Originals,” click here