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Head to Head: Microsoft Zune vs. Apple iPod

Published
Things have been quiet on the music player front of late, but this week both Apple and Microsoft refreshed their MP3 player line up with new software, hardware, and lower prices. At first glance, it's hard to tell which players offer the better value, so we put them side by side to find out.

Full-Size MP3 Players

Microsoft Zune
Apple iPod touch
Apple iPod classic
Price
$249.99
$399
$249
Weight
4.5 ounces
4 ounces
4.9 ounces ounces
Width
(at thickest)
12.9 mm
8.5 mm
10.5 mm
Screen
3.2" 320x240
3.5" 480x320
2.5" 320x240
Audio/Video/Photo
WMA, WMA Lossless, AAC, MP3, WMV, MP4, H.264, JPEG
AAC, Protected AAC, MP3, Apple Lossless, WAV, H.264, MP4, JPEG
AAC, Protected AAC, MP3, Apple Lossless, WAV, H.264, MP4, JPEG
Wireless
802.11g
802.11g
None
Web Browser
No
Yes
No
Hard Drive
120GB
32GB (flash)
120GB
FM Tuner
Yes
No
No
Firmware Upgrades
Free
$9.95
N/A
Features
Buy from FM, Games, Audiobooks, Audible, Overdrive
Accelerometer, Genius playlists, Audiobooks, Nike+iPod, built-in speaker, App Store
None
Rated Battery Life
30 hours (music),
4 hours (video)
36 hours (music),
6 hours (video)
30 hours (music),
5 hours (video)

Mini MP3 Players

Microsoft Zune
Apple iPod Nano
Price
$199
$199
Weight
1.7 ounces
1.3 ounces
Width (at thickest)
8.5 mm
6.2 mm
Screen
1.8" 320x240
2" LED backlit 320x240
Audio/Video/Photo
WMA, WMA Lossless, AAC, MP3, WMV, MP4, H.264, JPEG
AAC, Protected AAC, MP3, Apple Lossless, WAV, H.264, MP4, JPEG
Wireless
802.11g
None
Web Browser
No
No
Hard Drive
16GB (flash)
16GB (flash)
FM Tuner
Yes
No
Firmware Upgrades
Free
N/A
Features
Buy from FM, Games, Audiobooks, Audible, Overdrive
Genius playlists, Accelerometer, Audiobooks,
Shake to Shuffle
Rated Battery Life
24 hours (music w/o wireless), 4 hours (video)
24 hours (music), 4 hours (video)

Full-size MP3 players

Amongst the top of the line players, the Zune easily delivers more for your money. Unlike the iPod classic, it has built-in wireless and a host of features including an FM tuner and wireless music downloads. Technology-wise, the iPod touch has more to offer with it's advanced web browsing, built-in speakers, and Nike+iPod connectivity, which lets you keep track of your workouts (particularly your runs) with the help of an optional sneaker receiver. However, the touch only offers 32GB of memory and is $150 more than the top of the line Zune player — a deal breaker for someone who just wants an MP3 player and is trying to save money.

Mini MP3 players

On the "mini" player front, it seems both Microsoft's and Apple's flash players are neck and neck, both offering the same amount of storage for the same price. However, the Zune outsmarts the new nano with its built-in wireless and stronger list of features making it an obvious win when it comes to value. However, these added features come with a catch — the Zune is 25% heavier and thicker than the iPod nano.

Conclusion

Value-wise, Microsoft easily steals the show in both full-size and mini categories, offering more for your money. If all you need is a PC-friendly music/video player, the Zunes are solid choices. The main negatives are the rather uninspired styling and lack of Mac compatibility. On the other hand, techies who want a player that's slim and is equipped with (just slightly) more advanced technology, Apple's iPod touch is the better option. Although it's more expensive, it's web and gaming features set it apart from the pack. The iPod classic — well — we're sure it has a great personality.

Louis Ramirez is dealnews' Features Editor.

Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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