One of the things I really appreciate about the Zune is every time the Zune gets a firmware update, its like a brand new device. Even the old school Zune 30′s function just as any of the new hardware after the 3.0 firmware update. Like I mentioned way back in the very first Zune 1.0 review, the Zune development shares a lot of characteristics of the Xbox 360 where the software drastically improves the functionality extending the life of the device. If you think about it this make sense since Microsoft has always taken the position of being a software company, not a hardware company.
While I will get into the 3.0 software when it is released in a few days, this review is aimed to show off the new hardware in a lot of great pictures as well as point out the subtle differences in finishes and accessories with the new hardware.
Zune 80 vs Zune 120
While you are making a decision on whether to get an 80 or a 120 keep in mind that the 80 will eventually be phased out when supplies last. At this time the Zune 80 retails for $230 and the Zune 120 retails for $250. Looking quickly at this you may think that you are getting an extra 40GB of space for a mere $20, but it’s not that easy of a decision when you look inside the box.
The major difference between the two hard drive Zunes, aside from the capacity and finishes, is the headphones. In the new Zune 120 the premium headphones got cut. The Zune Premium headphones sell for $40 so you will have to take that into consideration. The headphones are worth $40 and they are my favorite included headphones, but on the other hand the Zune does sound good so it will benefit from a further headphone upgrade. I always use my Shure SE530s, which sell for half a grand, and I am happy with the way it performs.
If you are looking for the best bargain then the Zune 80 would be the way to go. To be quite honest 80GB is a lot of space and I’m having trouble filling it even with my massive music collection plus video podcasts. If you have a little bit of flexibility on the purchase price go for the 120 since you cannot upgrade the hard drive but you can always upgrade your headphones. Also, as I will discuss next, the black finish on the Zune 120 makes is a much better looking device.
Colors and Finishes
The new Zune 120 currently comes only in all black where as the 80 is currently available in red/silver and flat black/gold. Colors and styles are always subjective but I personally think that the new all black look many times better than the previous gold and silver backing. As I said in the Zune 80 review, the gold looks like tacky costume jewelry, especially the gold piece of plastic covering the Wi-Fi antenna.
The black finish on the front has been changed from a flat black to a glossy black along with changing the silver ring around the touch pad to black. The new glossy finish does show finger prints pretty easily, but what doesn’t these days? One may be worried about this glossy face being more susceptible to scratching. It does have a greater change of scratching by being in a bag with other hard objects, but doing something like laying it face down (the major culprit of scratching) does not scratch the device. This is because the raised touch pad keeps the Zune’s face off the surface. I tried to scratch it by sliding across the coffee table and my desk quite a few times so simulate many instances of setting your Zune down and virtually now scratches appeared.
The back black finish is a semi-gloss finish coating the same metal back plate found on the other Zunes. This finish is a very rugged and didn’t show scratches by sliding it many times across a flat surface. I’m not saying that it will never scratch, but know that it’s a rugged finish.
All of the same holds true for the Zune 16. As you can see from the pictures the finish is the same and looks just like a miniature version of the 120.