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Tech Report – Zune HD

Microsoft's Zune HD finally hit the stores this week and, as expected , it provides worthy competition for Apple's iPod Touch.

The Zune HD comes in two capacities – a 16GB model for $219 and a 32GB version for $289. Following the price cuts announced by Apple last week, the 16GB Zune is just $10 more than the 8GB Touch and $10 cheaper at the 32GB level.

Do you need the larger capacity? That really depends on how much video you are going to watch. The 16GB Zune holds up to 4,000 songs or 5 hours of video. The more songs you store, the less room for video. At 32GB, the capacities naturally double, surely allowing enough video for even the longest plane ride!

Both Zune HD versions are available in black or silver, or you can choose a custom color, pattern and engraving if you buy direct from the Zune Originals store.

So how do the features of the Zune HD compare to the Touch? The first and biggest difference is the screen. The Zune HD has a gorgeous 3.3-inch OLED format screen that just knocks the socks off the Touch when it comes to color and overall quality of picture. This is important to anyone considering the Zune, as one of its great strengths is video playback. The nownowstocks hundreds of low-cost movies and TV shows and, unlike the Touch, the Zune has an optional AV dock and HDMI cable (cost: $90)that allows full HD playback on an HDTV.

The second feature that sets the Zune HD apart is the integration of a tuner allowing full HD and standard FM radio. This dramatically extends the potential of the Zune as an all-round entertainment device. Also, if you hear a song you like on a radio station, the Zune allows you to tag it for future download.

The Zune HD is web-enabled and comes with a browser and on-screen keyboard that are as fast and as functional as the Touch. But that leads to probably the biggest weakness of the Zune or any other portable player when compared to the Touch – the availability of games and other applications. At launch, there are only a handful of games and apps for the Zune, although there's a promise of many more to come. Compare this to the 75,000 apps that are currently available for the iPhone and Touch.

In all other respects, including compatibility with its seriously upgraded but PC-only Zune 4.0 software, the Zune HD is a great alternative to the Touch. If you don't mind living without iTunes and the App Store and your focus is music and video, then for the first time the Zune even comes out ahead!


Comment by A. C., posted 2/2/2010, 6:10 PM:

any parental controls for browsing?
Comment by Ed, posted 11/20/2009, 3:28 PM:

My son wants a Zune HD for Christmas. Are there any parental controls on browsing?
Comment by Carrie T, posted 10/8/2009, 12:19 AM:

I love this Zune HD and can not wait to get one.... love the capabilities that it has. I love the fact that it is a step up on playing HD music and HD videos!!!! Thanks for the review.
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