Zune HD vs iPod Touch: feature smackdown

From April onwards, we have seen plenty of leaked information about the Zune HD

We are just over a month away from the launch of Microsoft's contender to the iPod Touch, the Zune HD. Microsoft has put all its creative forces behind the upcoming Zune HD portable media player, and by the looks of it, the iPod Touch is up for some serious competition.

From April onwards, we have seen plenty of leaked information about the Zune HD, from marketing pictures to specifications, pricing and availability. So there is enough info out there to make a healthy comparison between the Apple iPod Touch and its upcoming rival, the Zune HD.

Availability, Price and Display

The latest unconfirmed information on Zune HD availability puts the launch date of the player on September 15, with pre-orders available from September 8, according to various blogs.

But first, it all comes down to money: Amazon leaked the pricing for the Zune HD on Tuesday. According to Amazon's pre-order page, a 16GB Zune HD will cost you US$220 and the 32GB model will come at $290. Microsoft has put on some aggressive pricing in place for the Zune HD, hence the player will be $79 (for 16GB model) and $109 (for 32GB model) cheaper than the iPod Touch.

Pricing aside, the Zune HD also features a 3.3 inches OLED screen. Although 0.2 inches smaller than the iPod Touch's, Zune HD's display technology does not require a backlight to function, thus using less power and can operate longer on the same charge.

Internet Browsing and Connectivity

A first for the Microsoft Zune line of players will be inclusion of an Internet browser. The Zune HD will come with a specially designed version of Internet Explorer Mobile. Apple's Safari Mobile is already well known for speedy page rendering and hands-on test with the Zune HD have yet to prove the new player's capabilities.

The Zune HD will be able to stream music over Wi-Fi, something the iPod Touch cannot do out of the box. But the iPod Touch can stream music over Bluetooth (via A2DP) to compatible players. It is yet unknown if and what kind of Bluetooth technology the Zune HD will use.

Other advantages the Zune HD has over the iPod Touch is the built-in HD radio tuner, and the possibility connect the player to a TV via a dock (sold separately) and play HD video files.

Music, Games and Applications

The new Zune HD will also come with Zune Marketplace -- basically a music, video and podcasts store. Zune Marketplace uses a subscription model for music downloads while Apple sells songs individually.

It is yet unclear whether games and other types of software will be available after the Zune HD launch, but the powerful NVIDIA Tegra processor in the player could as well signal a new era in Zune HD games. The strength of the iPod Touch is the Apple App Store, which now has over 60,000 applications and games available for the device.

Feature-by-feature, the Zune HD and iPod Touch are very similar and the apparent price difference seems to put the advantage over the new Zune. But Apple is also expected to refresh its iPod line in September, introducing a 64GB iPod Touch and lower prices across the line. Meanwhile, there are still some unanswered questions about the Zune HD's battery life and how good it will be as a gaming platform.

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Daniel Ionescu

PC World (US online)
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