Zune's fascinating potential


Other look-and-feel features are a mixed bag. The white Zune unit we reviewed is quite different from the iPod but, subjectively, was reasonably attractive and felt comfortable to hold. Besides the central circular controls, the only other controls are small forward and back buttons located to the left and right of the main control. All controls are well positioned for easy one-hand control of the device.

Zune is about the same width as an equivalent iPod but about half as thick, more than an ounce heavier and significantly taller, which is understandable, given its larger screen. Its case is made of rubberized plastic, which is more resistant to scratches and fingerprints than the iPod. Zune comes in white, black and, inexplicably, brown.

Zune's most-discussed feature, its Wi-Fi capability, falls flat, however. Zune would be truly compelling if it connected directly over a wireless network to the Zune Marketplace. At the very least, it should connect wirelessly to your PC so that you can transfer media to the device.

Instead, Microsoft uses Wi-Fi only to connect one Zune to another to exchange music. Once somebody has transferred music to your Zune, you can play it three times. If you want to listen to it a fourth time, you must buy the music. In other words, Microsoft is using Wi-Fi as a marketing tool.

If a lot of people had Zunes, this feature would be moderately interesting. In the absence of a lot of Zunes out in the world, the feature is a waste of good Wi-Fi capabilities. Eliminating Wi-Fi and lowering the price by $50 bucks would make Zune a far more attractive device than this unnecessary "feature."