New Zunes ready for 13 November

Microsoft confirms official launch date in US

Even if we won't see them over here for a bit, Microsoft has finally set a release date for its second-generation Zunes.

The new Microsoft Zune digital music players aren't the quantum leap in design and performance that we secretly hoped for. The reality is a ho-hum three-model line-up: an 80GB hard disk Zune, plus 4GB and 8GB flash versions. The new Zunes will be available in the US from 13 November, Engadget reports.

Second time lucky for Zune?

Microsoft is hoping to regain some ground in the digital music player market with its new Zunes. But they face an uphil battle. Yes, the new models might be thinner. Yes, they include built-in wireless and an FM tuner (like the original fat Zune did). And yes, they all have a much brighter colour LCD for showing off your lovely album art, pictures and WMV videos.

But these fresh 'Zune 2's are a country mile away from being the iPhone/iPod touch beaters that they should be. The integration with PCs (and especially Media Center) is handy. But without a touch-sensitive display, they lack any instant desirability.

No threat to Apple's dominance

Battery life might be a problem too. A post on Zune Insider recently shed some light on the battery life of the new Zune models. The flash-based 4GB and 8GB Zunes can play back audio for 24 hours and video for up to four hours. The HDD-based Zune 80 can eke 30 hours of audio playback from a single battery charge and the same four hours of video.

The video playback time looks a little disappointing but, as the post points out, the tests were run on pre-production hardware and software (with the wireless turned off).

No word on whether we'll ever see a Zune in the UK. But for all you amateur gadget importers, the 80GB Microsoft Zune will cost $250 (£123) while the 4GB flash model will set you back $150 (£74), the 8GB $200 (£98).

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