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Dell Inspiron Zino HD (410) HTPC Review Print E-mail
Tuesday, 15 February 2011
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Dell Inspiron Zino HD (410) HTPC Review
Testing and Conclusion

ImageWith the set-top box and Internet-connected televisions dominating the home theater space as of late, dedicated home theater PCs have become less useful from the standpoint of the mainstream user.  However, there's still a niche space for those looking for high-end performance and small form factor in the home theater, something that a simple set-top box struggles with.  The custom HTPC market has been dwindling due to the rise of small computers like the Mac Mini or, in this case, the Dell Zino.  The first iteration of the Zino (released in early 2010) was woefully underpowered for playing high-definition media and was panned by critics due to stuttering 1080p playback as well as a lack of a Blu-ray option.  Dall must have taken that criticism to heart with the revision of the hardware (the 410), the model that's the focal point of this review.  


The form factor of the Dell Zino HD is mostly unchanged from the first model.  The small size of the HTPC is about 8 by 8 inches and just under 4 inches in height.  You can get interchangeable colors for the top of the unit, but our review unit came in piano black.  The finish of the Zino HD is very sleek and attracts a variety of fingerprints.  On the front of the unit, you will find the physical media drive (Blu-ray in our unit), a 3.5mm headphones jack, 2 USB 2.0 ports, the infra-red receiver for your remote and a 4 in 1 card reader for media from a digital camera or similar device.  The concept of the Zino is to appear as minimalist as possible and this unit blends in fairly seamlessly with a typical home theater setup.

Dell zino back

On the back of the unit, you will find the main panel for connections, similar to any typical PC.  There is a HDMI 1.3 and VGA port for your choices on video, S/PDIF optical out and 3.5mm audio out for your choice on audio as well as Gigabit LAN, 2 more USB ports, the main exhaust fan, the power connection, the release for the top panel (in case of changing colors and 2 e-SATA ports.  For those that like to tinker with their PC, the top panel opens up the PC and you can fiddle with the electronics inside.  It's a fairly straightforward connection panel and more people will likely rely on HDMI to output their Audio / Video into their main receiver, assuming this is going into their main home theater.  


As mentioned earlier, our review unit came with a Blu-ray drive.  It also came stocked with a 320GB 7200RPM drive for storing media, AMD II Phenom II X4 P940 Quad Core Processor (1.7Ghz), 6GB of DDR3 SDRAM (1333MHz), ATI Mobility HD 5450 dedicated video card, a Dell 1520 wireless b/g/n card and Windows 7 Premium.  The inclusion of the quad core processor bode well for the performance of HD content.  My only quibble is that the unit could have shipped with a TV tuner easily, thus adding a DVR possibility.

The Zino HD was also shipped with Dell's wireless keyboard and mouse combo, both of which communicate through the USB dongle included in the package.  Both worked just fine on my couch about 15 feet away from the theater setup.  The keyboard is of excellent quality, but the mouse felt a bit on the cheap side in terms of build quality and the left clicker often got stuck while in use.  I replaced it pretty quickly with a wireless Logitech mouse that I had instead.  The Zino HD also comes with a Media Center optimized remote for playing media.


Our Zino HD came with Windows 7 Premium edition, ideal if you want to jump right into Media Center upon each startup.  However, it also comes with McAfee SecurityCenter (a 30 day subscription only) and Roxio's CD/DVD burning software, both of which aren't the best programs and could potentially be viewed as bloatware.  For those using the Zino in an office setting, it does come with Office 2010 Starter ready to go; just fine for basic document creation. 



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