At 61 by 112 by 15mm, the Zune may be slightly thicker (and blockier) than the 30GB iPod, but it feels right at home in the hand. In our opinion, it's a good size and weight (160g) -- neither too thin to hold nor too big to pocket, though others we've spoken to say it's bulky and have even compared it to a prototype. We will say that a protective case such as Belkin's clear case does make it too big for our tastes.
The colours are subdued and the shell has a translucent matte finish, and more importantly, the body does not attract fingerprints (though the screen does). The double-shot effect of the secondary colour (green on the brown version, bluish on the black, translucent on the white) definitely gives the player visual pizzazz. The built-in battery will last up to 14 hours for audio. Interestingly, the back says this in fine print: "Hello from Seattle." The Zune, which is manufactured by Toshiba but completely designed by Microsoft, is an original-looking player with a style of its own.
It's a durable device that will withstand scratches, bumps and bruises, though the primary seam of the device looks as if it might burst open after a hard fall. The body is minimal with no buttons on the sides, only a hold switch and an earphone jack on top and a proprietary USB/accessories port on the bottom. The screen and main controller are surrounded by a thin, metallic inlay, while the three control buttons are dead simple (the small dedicated back and play/pause buttons are flush with the body).
You'll want to scroll the circular controller at first impulse (maybe even second). A true iPod-like click wheel would have made navigation on this device even easier than it is. In reality, the five-way tactile controller (aka d-pad, made of black plastic) is easy to use and will reorient when the device is used in landscape mode (only for photos and videos). Unfortunately for lefties, you can't flip the screen or controllers for left-handed use. Also, there is no dedicated volume control -- that is handled on the appropriate screen by using the up and down controllers.
The back of the device features a circular dip and it mirrors the d-pad on the front. This is supposed to give you a better feel for the d-pad, especially as it's used with two hands in landscape mode. There is no kickstand as seen on some portable video players, but you can always buy an optional case with a built-in method for propping up the Zune.