The PS3 and the Wii aren't the only new gadgets in the house. Microsoft's Zune arrived here as well this morning, and I thought I'd check in with a few very early first impressions.

The packaging looks pretty good. Zune comes in a nice, compact, iPod-like box with everything tightly enclosed in two main compartments. Engadget and all your other favorite gadget blogs are all over the unboxing photos and videos today, so head on over and take a quick look if that's your thing. Everybody back now? Good. Moving on...

You've got to love a product that needs a firmware update before it's even released. When I first connected my player, the Zune software downloaded and installed a quick firmware update. I'm running the 1.1 version now. So I've got that going for me, which is nice. Seriously, though, anyone else think some companies are taking this online updates thing a little too far?

There are still some glitches. When transferring my first few files to the Zune, I ran into several that simply wouldn't sync. Worse yet, the Zune software (a customised version of Windows Media Player 11.0) wouldn't simply skip those files. It hung up there until I clicked Stop Sync, unplugged my Zune, and deleted the offending file.

Zune transfers files pretty quickly. Informal results: the first few albums I synched, totalling 394MB, took about 54 seconds. That's around 7.3MB per second.

The screen and the interface really are beautiful. Zune's 3in 320x240-pixel display looks quite nice, on a par with the 5.5G iPod and the Zen Vision:M in terms of overall quality, and even nicer when you consider it's quite a bit larger. The player's highly visual interface is a treat to look at as well. I'm definitely digging this renewed push to make album art a larger part of the MP3 player experience.

The interface is responsive as well. You'd think that with all the visual overhead – pretty transitions, large shots of album art and so on – Zune could easily bog down between tasks. But so far, the player seems pretty zippy, flipping right to the next track with album art and all during shuffle play and moving quickly between artist, album, and song views under its music menu.

So those are my first impressions. I'm anxious to try out the wireless music sharing once we get a hold of a second Zune, and I'll be interested to see how the player holds up in battery life testing.