Microsoft's Zune HD will ship this fall with two color variations: silver with black trim, or black with silver trim. Like its competition, Apple's iPod Touch, the Zune HD uses a glass-covered touch-screen display. To access the main menu from the opening screen, you'll first need to swipe upwards to unlock the device, just like lifting a curtain.
Another feature shared between the Zune HD and the iPod Touch is the use of a single home button on the front of the device. Unlike previous Zune models, the button is just a plain old button, and does not behave like a joystick.
On the bottom of the Zune HD you'll find a standard Zune dock connection and headphone jack.
The Zune HD is up against some stiff competition. On the left, you have Apple's iPod Touch with its larger 3.5-inch display and iPhone app compatibility. On the right, there's Sony's X-Series Walkman, which includes integrated noise cancellation, Slacker radio support, and a gorgeous OLED display that rivals the Zune's own OLED technology.
The Zune HD can certainly hold its own against these two, especially with features such as HD radio and HD video output. Still, it wouldn't hurt if Microsoft priced the player aggressively. At the time of this writing, Zune HD pricing and capacity have yet to be announced.
Thin is still in, and the Zune HD has come a long way from its brown brick days. In this shot we can see how the Zune HD is just a hair thicker than the second-generation iPod Touch, yet not quite as thick as the Sony X-Series Walkman.
For old time's sake, I threw in my old Zune 80 from 2007. The poor thing looks rather dumpy now compared with the thin touch-screen design of the Zune HD and the Touch. Still, 80GB of storage can be a wonderful thing to music hoarders like myself.
Even the back of the Zune HD is kind of sexy. The metal enclosure is curved at the edges and bolted in place with a set of four unapologetically large screws. The bottom tapers into a black base, housing the headphone jack and dock connections.
Overall, the whole thing feels very solid and the flatness of the back lacks the wobble found on the curved chrome of the iPod Touch.
Historically, the top edge of the Zune has been reserved for a little plastic window to help with the player's Wi-Fi reception. The top of the Zune HD is still plastic, but much more useful now with a large power button. Tapping once on the power button activates the Zune HD's hold screen, while a longer press will shut down the device.
Taking a cue from the second-generation iPod Touch, the Zune HD includes a hardware volume rocker on the left edge of the player. The switch is only slightly raised, making it unlikely to be triggered accidentally.
A Zune logo is tastefully etched into the back of the Zune HD. But just like the last two generations of Zune, I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft rolled out their Zune Originals custom etching service again.
For more Zune HD information and photo galleries, check out CNET's Zune Central.