Zune HD - finally a real iPod challenger?

By Pat Pilcher

Microsoft's Zune HD may be the killer device to knock the iPod off its perch as media player king.
Microsoft's Zune HD may be the killer device to knock the iPod off its perch as media player king.

There are still heaps of unanswered questions around the final price capacity and spec for Microsoft's rather lusty Zune HD (according to the rumour mill MS are likely to launch both 16Gb and 32Gb versions), but if early geek blog reviews are anything to go by, Microsoft could finally have an iPod challenger.

Sporting a slick minimalist design, the Zune HD has other cool features such as a multi-touch OLED screen and HD video playback rounding things out, the Zune HD looks impossibly thin and did I mention it looks rather tasty.

Enviously watching pre-release videos of the Zune HD in action, it looks like Microsoft may have cracked the whole user interface thing, with the Zune's menus moving smoothly, looking fantastic, and having some pretty nifty features such as has a tab that gives access to all videos, photos, radio stations, websites, and songs recently played. The whole thing looks very slick and incredibly fluid.

Rumours are still swirling around which web browser is built into the Zune HD, but the good oil is that it will be version of Internet Explorer Mobile for Windows Mobile 7 modified for the Zune HD.

From what little can be gleamed from reviews and leaked video clips, the Zune HD's on-screen keyboard (a critical make or break feature) looks very similar to the iPhones in that letters to linger above your fingers, making for significantly easier typing.

Unlike the iPhone/iPod however, it looks like landscape mode hasn't been included.

Whilst its hard to get a feel for the Zune HD's 3.3" 16:9 widescreen capacitive OLED multi-touch 480x272 screen from pictures and lo-fi YouTube clips.

The use of OLED is likely to ensure it'll be pretty vivid and, like most new OLED mobile phones, should be pretty readable outdoors.

The Zune's "HD" moniker comes from the inclusion of HD radio (yet another hi-resolution digital radio audio format we could sorely do with), plus 720p HD video playback and output (although the output option is understood to only be available with an optional docking station).

It's also expected to include an accelerometer, which is now pretty much a check box feature for portable digital music players.

Xbox 360 fanboys can also rejoice as the Zune HD is also rumoured to feature some pretty tight integration with the Xbox Live environment.

Now for the bad news, the Zune is going to be available in the US and Canada from September the 15th onwards but it looks like it isn't going to be available here any time soon.

This is a real bummer as the Zune HD looks like a real cracker. Perhaps someone should start up a 'We want the Zune HD' petition?

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