The much-anticipated wait for the next-generation Zune is now over with the release of the 80 GB Zune in November, 2007. This new Zune sports some nice upgrades over the first generation Zune including more Wi-Fi capabilities, smaller size, podcast support, and larger LCD screen. Microsoft is getting closer and closer to Apple's reign as king of the portable media devices.
New Design of Second Generation Zune
Microsoft has redesigned the new Zune to be a bit smaller than the first generation model which was bulky and a little heavy. The new Zune is just a tad larger than the iPod Classic, so it is much better suited for traveling in a pant pocket than before.
2nd generation Zune is smaller than the 1st generation model
Microsoft has also increased the screen size in the 2nd generation Zune to 3.2 inches. The LCD screen also has an optical glass protective shield which further improves clarity and protects the screen from scratches.
The new navigational pad is called the "Zune pad" by Microsoft, and it is somewhat like the touch-pad on your laptop. The Zune pad can also be used like a standard 4-way click pad, so it's very flexible and very innovative overall.
The included earphones are also new, and they work extremely well. They are sound-isolating earphones, so although they won't eliminate outside noise, they will minimize it greatly.
Wi-Fi Feature of Second Generation Zune
Microsoft has expanded on the Wi-Fi feature originally used in the 1st generation Zune. The Wi-Fi feature of the second generation Zune allows you to wirelessly share music and photos with other Zune users within a range of about 30-40 feet. This feature can be turned on or off to conserve battery life. There are limitations to the Wi-Fi feature much like there were in the 1st generation model. If you share a song with another Zune user, they can only listen to that song 3 times before it is deleted from their library. The song will remain on that user's Zune Marketplace Software page on their PC if they wish to purchase it through the Zune Marketplace. Video cannot be shared via Wi-Fi. Photo sharing does not have the same restrictions as the music does, so you can share as many photos as you like with other Zune users.
One nice upgrade with the 2nd generation Zune is the ability for the Zune to sync wirelessly with your PC. Once you dock the Zune to be charged, the Zune will automatically seek out any new songs, photos, or videos in the library on your PC and instantly put them into the library of your Zune. For traditional PMP users, you can also use the included USB cable to sync your Zune to your PC.
Podcast Feature of Second Generation Zune
The new Zune software allows for easy integration of music or video podcasts to your Zune. The Zune has a "Podcast" directory right on the home page of the device, which allows users to put any podcasts that they are subscribed in an easily accessible area of the Zune. This feature will also work wirelessly with your PC to get the latest podcast updates.
Compatible Music and Video Formats of Second Generation Zune
The number of compatible formats in the 2nd generation Zune is an improvement over the 1st generation's. The Zune is now compatible with the following music formats:
- Protected WMA (Zune Marketplace only)
- WMA lossless
The compatible video formats are as follows:
Zune Marketplace screenshot: www.crunchgear.com
Obviously, songs downloaded from iTunes are not compatible with this device, although they may be in the future. The Zune is only compatible with a PC, not a Mac. So, Microsoft is hoping to make the Zune Marketplace as big as iTunes is for the iPod.
Performance of Second Generation Zune
The 80 GB Zune performs outstanding with both music and videos. Music sounds great with the included earphones, and it gets plenty loud. One downfall of the new Zune, though, is that there is no equalizer like there was in the 1st generation Zune. Despite this minor gripe, the sound still sounds excellent.
Landscape view during video playback: www.zune.net
Video is equally good on the 3.2 inch LCD screen. The display will play video at up to 30 fps at a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels. When viewing video, the player switches to landscape view. You can also hook up your Zune to your TV and watch video at 720 x 480 resolution, which is a very cool feature.
The battery life of the new Zune is average, but that's to be expected with a Wi-Fi device. Wi-Fi tends to suck a lot of juice from the battery. Turning this feature off will help make the battery last longer. Microsoft rates the battery life at 30 hours for audio and 4 hours for video; not too bad.
Final Thoughts on Second Generation Zune
Overall, I think that Microsoft has really improved upon the original Zune in many different ways. The 80 GB Zune is not a perfect player, but it's still pretty good for a second generation player. The improvements over the 1st generation Zune have made this player a contender with the Apple iPod and iTouch , and it's also already got me excited about what the third generation Zune will be capable of.
The 2nd generation 80 GB Zune is currently available at most online stores for about $249.
Pros of Second Generation Zune
- Wi-Fi file sharing and PC syncing
- Excellent sound quality and video quality
- Great design and large 3.2 inch screen
- 80 GB storage capacity
- Easily accessible podcast directory
Cons of Second Generation Zune
- Zune is only compatible with a PC, so Mac users are out of luck
- Zune Marketplace doesn't currently have videos (Microsoft plans to add videos soon)
- No equalizer
Joe Eitel's Gadget Blog