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MP3 Players

Microsoft unveils all-new Zune models

Microsoft has revealed its brand new Zunes and as we expected, there's a flash-based contender under there. We've got the full run down and a whole heap of images for you to peruse

If you're sick of hearing about iPods, today might just be your lucky day. Microsoft has unveiled its new set of Zune music players and while we weren't initially thrilled by His Brownness, the original Zune, when it was first released, we concede that the new models are looking pretty swish.

There are three types of new Zune: the Zune 80GB, Zune 8GB and Zune 4GB, the latter two being the long-awaited flash memory players. The original 30GB model will still be available and a firmware update will be released in November to keep its functionality on par with the new models. The update will also finally add podcast support! About bloody time.

The Zune 80GB has a large 81mm (3.2-inch) glass screen, touch-sensitive controls and it ships with what Microsoft calls 'premium headphones', which hopefully won't be as atrocious as Apple's white earbuds.

You'll be able to sync your content wirelessly over Wi-Fi in your home, as well as share music over the air with other Zunes. There's no wireless music store, though. Sigh. A notable difference from the original Zune is that the three-day listening period encoded into shared songs has now been removed. Shared items can still only be played three times.

It goes without saying that MP3 and WMA flavours of audio are supported, though we sincerely hope lossless WMA files will play, too. Failure to deliver lossless options would put the Zune completely out of the minds of audiophiles, potentially pushing them to the lossless-supporting iPod classic. High-quality MPEG-4 videos should look terrific on that big ol' screen and any broadcast TV content captured using Windows Vista or Media Center can be automatically synced for use on-the-go.

Finally, there's also a built-in FM radio and a revamped Zune Marketplace to cater for your music purchasing needs -- some of it's DRM-free, too! The flash-based Zune boasts the same feature set as its bigger brother, but has a 46mm (1.8-inch) glass screen.

These new models will be available in the States from November. There's no mention of a European release yet and a Zune spokesperson didn't immediately respond to our request for comment. For crying out loud, Microsoft -- you gave us Vista quickly enough. Give us some sexy new Zunes to make up for it.

The Zune 80GB will cost $249.99 (£122) while the flash Zunes will cost $149.99 (£73) and £199.99 (£97) for the 4GB and 8GB models respectively.

Click through for more glossy Zune close-ups than you can wave a broken iPod at. -Nate Lanxon

The full family of Zunes, including ye olde Zune 1.0 (far right).

A green flash-based Zune will look lovely when hooked up to a Halo 3-edition Xbox 360.

This pink Zune, shown complete with dock, is just one of the new colours available for the 4GB and 8GB models. The flash-based models come in red, green and black flavours, too.

A revamped Zune Marketplace will spit out over three million songs -- if you ask it nicely.

The so-called 'premium headphones' that ship with the new Zunes.

A home AV kit allows you to hook up your Zune to a TV and a hi-fi.

Microsoft will also be selling a Zune-branded FM transmitter for in-car use.