We all know that Apple’s iPod is the most popular digital music player on the planet. Yet, there are many competitors. The Microsoft Zune is one of them. We took a look to see how the Zune compared to the iPod and also to see if the Zune was worthy enough to attract its own audience. We found that while the iPod and other MP3 players are for people who like to listen to music, the Zune is the digital music player for music lovers. Our review will explain.

The Zune comes in two sizes with differing storage capacities. The smaller Zune which is roughly the equivalent of the iPod Nano comes in 4 GB, 8 GB, and 16 GB sizes. These are known as the Zune 4, Zune 8, and Zune 16, respectively. The other Zune, which is physically larger and has a hard drive, is roughly the equivalent of the iPod Classic and comes in 80 GB and 120 GB storage sizes. These are known as the Zune 80 and the Zune 120. These devices are all a part of the second generation of Zune players which are thinner and much better than the first generation Zune players. The Zune 4 comes in black, red, pink, and green. The Zune 8 is available in black, red, pink, green, and blue. The Zune 16 comes in black only and the Zune 80 and Zune 120 come in red and black.

We reviewed a black Zune 4.  As shown in Figure 1, the Zune comes in a small but elegant black box with orange trim.  The back of the box, shown in Figure 2 shows the Zune itself alone with the size and color notations.

Microsoft Zune ReviewFigure 1: The Zune box.

Microsoft Zune ReviewFigure 2: The back of the Zune box .

As shown in Figure 3, the Zune comes with a quick start guide, instruction guide, USB cable, and headphones. Also included are several sets of soft covers for the ear buds. Like the iPod, the Zune does not come with any software. You are expected to download it from the Internet.

 Microsoft Zune ReviewFigure 3: What’s in the box.

According to Microsoft, the 4 GB models holds up to 1,000 songs, or 25,000 pictures, or 12 hours of video. Like the current iPods, there is no slot for additional memory, so you will want to purchase the size you need to hold your music, picture, and video collection.

At 41.4 mm x 91.5 mm x 8.5 mm and weighing only 1.7 ounces (47 grams), the Zune 4 is very lightweight and pocketable.

The Zune can play a nice variety of formats including WMA, WMA Lossless, AAC, and MP3. Video support includes WMV, MPEG-4, and H.264. The Zune will also automatically transcode  HD MPEG-4, HD WMV, HD H.264  DVR-MS files giving it great support for a wide variety of video formats.  Pictures are handled in the JPEG format.

Sandy Berger, respected computer authority, journalist, media guest, speaker, and author, has more than three decades of experience as a computer and technology expert. Her eight books include: How to Have a Meaningful Relationship with Your Computer, Your Official Grown-up's Guide to AOL and the Internet, Cyber Savers –Tips & Tricks for Today’s Drowning Computer Users, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Better Living through Technology, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to the Internet, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Gadgets & Gizmos, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Health & Wellness, and Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Travel. Sandy’s newspaper column, magazine articles, feature stories, product reviews, and computer tips can be found at her website, Compu-KISS.