Hands On With New 120GB Zune (and the 8GB Blue One)
Apple might be busy today prepping for a release of new iPods tomorrow, but Microsoft is breaking out with the new (and rumored) Zune devices. Joining the Zune family comes a new 120GB hard drive model, and a 16GB flash version. The 8GB version will now be available in blue and black, in addition to the already offered pink and red. The big news, however, is in the Zune 3.0 software that will bring more features to the device itself. These features include a Buy from FM radio option, a Wi-Fi music store for downloading from hotspots with a Zune Pass and preloaded games. The good news is that you don’t need a new Zune to get the software update; all the new features will be available for older generation Zunes starting on September 16. We got a some hands on time with the new devices today and were thoroughly happy with the additions. Not surprisingly, the 120GB Zune is a bit bigger and heavier than the 80GB and is the choice for those that plan on bringing a good chunk of their music collection with them. The front of the device is glossier than the 80GB black version of the Zune and the back is also black, rather than the previous matte silver. The blue 8GB version is, well, royal blue. The software on the new Zune, however, is the change we care most about. Added to the main menu is a marketplace option. The marketplace on the device is well organized and you can browse lists of featured new releases and top songs and albums sorted by genre. There is also an option to search using the on-screen keypad. We searched for Natasha Beningfield and results showed up in about 10 seconds over the office WiFi connection we were on. We are happy to see Zune finally add this functioanlity to their devices. A games category has also been added to the main menu. We were less than impressed with the choice of Texas Hold ‘Em and Hexic. See a picture of Hexic above (you can see why we can hold back the excitement). Sure we are happy that these games are free and come preloaded but we would love to see a games section of the Marketplace. Microsoft did tell us that there are plans to add more games in the future. We also checked out the new Buy from FM service, which lets you tag and purchase songs you hear on FM radio stations directly from the Zune. When in a Wi-Fi hotspot, the song can be immediately downloaded to the Zune device, if not you can tag it for when you are connected next. We toggled to New York City’s Z100 and lo and behold their was an option to Add to Cart. Since the station didn’t show the name of the song or the Artist (we assume because there was an advertisment on the air) it wasn’t available for download. Also demoed were a few cool additions to the on the PC software. Microsoft has done a few neat things to make discovering music easier. All software updates will be avilable on September 16 from www.zune.net. The 120GB version will retail for $249.99, the 80GB for $229.9, and the 16GB version for $199.99. The 8GB version will drop down to $149.99.