The third generation of the Microsoft Zune MP3 player develops several new tools for music discovery and taste sharing.
There's not a whole lot to say about the Zune 120's design, since it is almost entirely unchanged from Zune 80 model we saw last year. The faceplate is glossier, and the aluminum backing is now black instead of silver, but that about covers the makeover.
One small disappointment with the Zune 120 is that Microsoft decided not to include the higher-quality in-ear headphones bundled with last year's Zune 80. What gives? You do get a proprietary USB cable, and earbuds with multicolor sleeves--but you won't get the same out-of-the-box sound quality as last year's model.
Head to head with its iPod competition, the 120GB Zune is still a hair larger than its foe in every direction. Considering the Zune's larger screen and built-in Wi-Fi antenna, the extra girth is forgivable. The iPod Classic's vastly superior battery life and accessory compatibility, however, make it hard to pass up.
The Zune 120's 3.2-inch screen is one of its biggest assets over the iPod Classic. The screen is also covered in glass, making it more resilient against scratches. The glass can get a little smudgy, however, and the Zune's new glossy plastic face is no stranger to fingerprints, either.
The 120GB Zune is not quite as skinny as its iPod contemporary, but it's a far cry from the bricklike first-gen Zune we saw in 2006. Bear in mind that the fragile screens and scratch-prone chrome found on the iPod inspire users to invest in cases, while the glass screen and anodized aluminum backing of the Zune make a case somewhat redundant.
The Zune 120 uses an unconventionally oversize font, however, it has shrunk somewhat to accommodate additional menu options such as Marketplace. Still, the relatively large print is especially useful when operating the Zune using the remote control included with the optional AV dock.
A unique feature of the Zune's design is a mysterious plastic window on the top edge of the player. The window conceals the Zune's Wi-Fi antenna, whose signal would otherwise be obstructed by the metal body. A headphone jack and button hold switch are located on the left and right side of the antenna window.