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Microsoft Zune Review

Our Verdict

The new Microsoft Zune is flash-based and flashy.

The first flash-based Zune is a sleek little number with hot features like video playback, wireless sharing, and wireless sync. The glossy plastic body measures 3.6 x 1.6 x 0.3 inches and weighs just 1.7 ounces--not bad for a gadget that packs an FM radio and Wi-Fi. It's available in black, green, pink, and red, with a decent size 1.8-inch screen that automatically switches to landscape mode for video and photo viewing.

The Zune's interface is silky smooth. We love the big words that show your options of Music, Videos, Pictures, Social, Radio, Podcasts, and Settings. You can slide your finger vertically on the touch pad for fast scrolling, and when you're in your long music list, the scrolling whizzes by and shows what letter you're at on the left. Horizontal scrolling brings you through additional sorting options, such as Albums, Artists, and Playlists.

Our favorite feature is Wi-Fi, which lets you sync with your computer wirelessly and share music with friends. To sync wirelessly, just go into Settings, Wireless, and Sync now, and everything that was updated on your PC, such as podcasts from a subscription, syncs to your Zune. Our four-minute song took about 30 seconds to sync. The other option is to plug your device into a dock, AC adapter, or your PC. If you want to go this route, you can set up automatic syncing, which lets you specify when and what you want to sync.

Wireless sharing via Wi-Fi has been improved from the previous Zune; you can now pass songs on that have been sent to you, and you can listen to songs you receive up to three times. We had no trouble doing this on our tests; it took about 10 seconds per track. For now, video content is limited to video podcasts and music videos, but you can sync recorded TV shows and movies to the Zune if you have a Media Center-enabled PC with a TV tuner.

The flash Zune comes in 4GB and 8GB versions and syncs only with the improved Zune software and Zune Marketplace. It supports WMA (including protected), WMA Lossless, unprotected AAC, and MP3, plus H.264, MPEG-4, DVR-MS, and WMV video. Unfortunately, the flash player lacks TV output. Battery life is on a par with that of the iPod nano: about 24 hours for audio and 4 hours for video, though Wi-Fi drains the battery quickly.

If you can live without premium video downloads, the flash-based Zune is every bit as cool and intuitive (if not more so) than the nano. This Wi-Fi player also makes it easy to start enjoying subscription-based music while expanding your collection via social networking.

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Tech Specs

PC InterfaceUSB
Memory TypeFlash
Video FormatsMPEG-4, H.264
Voice RecordingNo
Memory Capacity4GB/8GB
Battery Typerechargable
Battery Life24 hours (audio), 4 hours (video)
FM RadioNo
FM RecordingNo
Audio FormatsAAC Lossless, WMA Protected, WMA Lossless, WMA, MP3