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Zune HD AV Dock - Portable HD Video

The new Microsoft Zune HD media player has a bright 3.3-inch touchscreen OLED display, ready to tilt into landscape mode for showing16:9 widescreen videos (see previous post).

And the "HD" in the name refers to the ability to store and play 720p HD videos. However, HD video doesn't do you much good if you're watching on the Zune's 480 x 272 display. So what's going on here?

The Zune HD is part of Microsoft's move to broaden the Zune brand from players into online entertainment, so you can buy movies and TV shows in HD, and enjoy them across the desktop (on Windows), set-top (Xbox 360), and portable devices (Zune HD). The first step is extending the Zune service to the Xbox 360, with unified video catalogs on the Zune Marketplace and Xbox LIVE stores.

But for the moment, you can turn your Zune HD into a HD video player with the Microsoft Zune HD AV Dock, available separately for $89 list ($70 street). Connect up to your HDTV with the HDMI cable, and watch 720p HD video in its full widescreen quality. The dock also includes optical digital audio output and an antenna for FM radio and HD radio reception, plus standard AV cables for display on standard-def TVs, and with other Zune models. There's also a wireless remote control.

The HD videos do take up significantly more storage than standard-def (and take longer to transfer and download) -- you can store some 10 hours HD video on a 32 GB Zune, but 48 hours of SD video. So stay with SD videos if you're only watching on the Zune itself, and then step up to HD with the AV Dock to watch your videos in their full quality.

Microsoft also offers a Zune Premium Car Pack for $79 that auto-seeks the best available FM frequency to play on your car radio, plus an audio out minijack, and a USB port to simultaneously charge a second device.

See my Portable Media Players Gallery for more on media players

Find the Microsoft Zune HD AV Dock on Amazon.com

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