Microsoft launches new Zunes

Written by Phil Cogar

October 3, 2007 | 09:27

Tags: #ipod

Companies: #microsoft

Microsoft thinks it's time to breathe some new life into it's Zune lineup. Having already sold one million units after just six months on the market (and only being on the US market to boot) with the original design and who knows how many others since then, the Zune is getting a makeover. Not just a physical makeover, mind you, but also a hint of blush and eyeliner on its user interface.

The second generation of Zunes will come in a variety of flavours: 80GB hard drive, 4GB flash, and 8GB flash. The flash based models will come in your choice of green, red, pink, or black while the 80GB HDD model will be available in black only.

A higher capacity and a flash version aren't the only change to the lineup. One of the previous booed features of the Zune has been slightly improved - songs that have been beamed from one Zune to another no longer have the three day restriction on them but that pesky three play rule will still apply.

Automatic syncing with your computer over Wi-Fi is now a possibility as well. Not only will you be able to create a sync list of your audio, but you'll be able to automatically sync your favourite shows that have been recorded in Windows Media Center.

Users will also be able to beam more than just audio from one Zune to another but no further details on this have been announced. Hopefully you'll be able to beam videos amongst one another. This might be more enticing since the Zune will now support h.264 and MPEG4 instead of forcing you to encode to WMV.

The new Zune also sports what is being called the "Zune Pad" for user navigation. The Zune Pad is touch sensitive so you can navigate by pushing it around or you can still use the edges to simply click through the menus. Speaking of menus, the GUI has also been spruced up slightly and tweaked for easier navigation.

Microsoft's Zune website will now have an actual social feature to it. Zune users and non-users alike will be able to create a "Zune Card" much like a gamer card for 360 owners. Instead of displaying your latest games played, the Zune Card will list the latest music that you've listened to and also keep track of which artists you listen to the most.

The Zune Social site will also allow you to see which users are listening to a particular artist the most and which song/artist is being listened to the most by all users. An ideal feature that would allow more of an actual social experience would be to allow users to swap your three-play-only music online but that's highly doubtful.

The 80GB Zune will come in at $249 and sport a 3.2 inch 320x240 display. Both of the flash based models will sport a 1.8 inch 320x240 display with the 8GB model being priced at $199 and the 4GB model at $149. All models will have Wi-Fi and FM radio capabilities.

The first generation 30GB is not being discontinued but you can expect to pick it up for under $200 now. A firmware update will be made available soon to give it the additional syncing features of its younger brothers. So if you've been waiting on the release of the second generation Zune and have had your eye on that Halo 3 edition, you won't be let down by not having as many features if you had bought a new version.

Does the second generation of Zunes finally entice you to buy one? Tell us your thoughts on the Zune 2 over in the forums.
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