The new Zune firmware is bringing new functionality to even old Zunes (which we covered in detail here), but is the new hardware special enough to be worth your purchase? Here's a rundown of our tests on how easy it is to fit a Zune in your pocket (video above), the paint job, and the new touch sensitive directional Zune pad. Video of Zune Flash enduring the pressure and friction of jeans too tight, after the jump, followed by everything you need to know about the hardware.
•The Zune's blockish body is thin, but not as thin as the iPod's rounded body. Height causes the Zune to not be as pocketable. (Zune: 1.6 x 3.6 x 0.33-inches, iPod: 2.74x2.05x.25 inches.)
•The Zune's candy red beats the crap out of the iPod's anodized finish. The pink looks terrible, and I reserve judgment on the green. The Zunepad has a textured surface, but the bodies of these things are aluminum and the slickest paint you've ever seen on a gadget.
•The headphone jack is on the bottom, as is the dock connector (same as big Zune connector). There's a lock on top.
•The D-pad's raised profile is a blessing when it comes to track changing while the Zune is in pocket. but it does cause a bit of friction when sliding into the denims. Man, I need to exercise.
•The Zune's aluminum back looks gray, and is dull in comparison to the mirrored finish on the nano. Good news, it won't scratch as easily.
•Twisting the chassis shows some flex.
•It's very similar in size to the last gen nano, but has the same size screen as the current gen nano, in a much more efficient layout.
•More or less - the Zune has a 1.8-inch screen vs the 2-inches on the pod. Don't be fooled by the black border around the Zune's screen, which makes it look bigger than it is, but to Microsoft's credit, the black border helps the screen pop nicely.
•Oh, one more thing we can't forget. These little flash players by Microsoft have Wi-Fi inside for song/photo sharing and wireless sync. Pretty impressive in such a small package.
•The new touch sensor, the Zune pad, is actually terrific. There's a bit of lag, and drifting causes the flicking to be less precise than say, an iPod touch, but I prefer the Zunepad to the too small wheel on the iPod nano for quickly browsing lists. Clicking the D-pad for select is not that precise; often I'd want to click down and would hit "select" instead. That point aside, this is possibly the biggest reason to upgrade from a Zune 1 to a Zune Flash or 80GB. It is a lot better than the dumb directional pad of the original Zune, and scrolling through large lists of songs is much better this way.
•The screen has the same res as a full Zune 80, at 320 x 240 pixels, same as the nano, but is slightly less bright. Nonetheless, it's sharp and it's a great screen.
•The Zune pad's texture feels like your finger is on a zipline as you scroll. Whee!
•Here's a comparo of the Flash Zune to the nano and 30GB generation one zune.