Microsoft Zune 80GB Digital Media Player Review

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We’ve already been told that it’s coming “Zune” to Canada, but how does Microsoft’s sophomore entry into the MP3 player market compare against the iPods of the world? I had the chance to take the larger Zune 80GB out for a test drive and I have to admit that they have made some serious improvements over the first-generation Microsoft Zune.

Zune Models

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The first-generation Zune (30GB) is not going to make its way to the Canadian market and thank goodness. That thing was bulky and the user interface wasn’t nearly as intuitive as the equivalent offering from Apple. For their Canadian launch, Microsoft is only sending the newer three models of the Zune, all of which are already available south of the 49th parallel.

The Zune 4GB and Zune 8GB are similar in size and shape as the second-generation iPod nano. For the purposes of this review, we took a closer look at the Zune 80GB. Although it has a footprint that is similar to the first Zune, it does feel a little lighter in my hands and it seems to a smidge thinner as well. All three models are equipped with the Zune Pad for navigation, which is a considerable step in the right direction compared to the clunky plastic five-way navigator of the first Zune.

Features and Specifications

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Let’s have a look at the key specifications on the Zune 80GB.

  • 80GB hard disk drive
  • 3.2-inch color screen
  • Premium headphones with noise-blocking
  • Touch controls via new Zune Pad
  • Wireless sync with your PC over Wi-Fi
  • Wireless Zune-to-Zune sharing. Listen to any song you receive up to three times
  • Import unprotected WMV, MPG4 and H.264 files into your Zune video library
  • Built-in FM radio
  • Zune Marketplace featuring DRM-free MP3s, audio/video podcasts and more
  • Stream content in Zune software to your Xbox 360 wirelessly
  • Dimensions: 4.26 x 2.41 x 0.51 in. (108.2 x 61.1 x 12.9 mm)
  • Weight: 4.5 ounces

With the noted exception of the integrated Wi-Fi connectivity (and all the associated functionality), this feature set is pretty much in line with the iPod Classic 80GB. Where the Zune wins, in this regard, is the fact that it has a much larger display, making video watching a richly rewarding experience.

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About

Michael Kwan is freelance writer and professional gadget geek. He's been reporting on the world of technology for years, playing countless console games along the way too. Be sure to check out his personal blog, Beyond the Rhetoric, for posts on freelance writing, personal development, entertainment, video games, and more. Follow him on Twitter too: @michaelkwan

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