Dell Zino HD: Too Expensive for an HTPC

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There are those who look for performance from their PCs while there are some who like fancy and compact designs. Dell plans to woo the latter segment of customers with their newest iteration of the Zino HD. The new Zino HD doesn’t look different from the early models but the hardware has come a long way. The Dell Zino HD has always been designed to fit right into your living room, without eating too much space. Its design lends itself to being a decent HTPC setup.

An HTPC (Home Theater PC) is aimed at those who are looking for something like a media player, but also fits in regular PC usage such as basic office work, internet surfing and a bit of gaming as well.

Specifications:
Processor: AMD Phenom II X3 P840
Memory 2 GB DDR3 1333MHz
Graphics Card: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5450
Storage: 320GB SATA Hard Drive
Optical drive: 8X DVD Writer
Operating System: Windows 7 Home Basic 64bit

Design and Build Quality
The Zino HD is designed very well both in terms of looks as well as size. At just 8 x 8 inches, it’s a reasonably compact PC that can be kept anywhere. The Zino HD is build well but the top panel feels somewhat flimsy and loose.

Compact and cute to look at

Compact and cute to look at

 

 

Features
In terms of features, the Zino HD has sufficient external ports for different devices. At the front, there are two USB 2.0 ports, a headphone connector and a 4-in-1 memory card reader, all of which are spaced out.

The ports at the back include an Ethernet port, two USB 2.0 and eSATA ports, one HDMI and an SPDIF port along with others. Unlike the front, the ports at the rear are positioned closely, but then that is bound to happen looking at the fact that the motherboard for the Zino HD has a mini-ITX design. While the Zino HD does have a VGA port, having a DVI out as well would’ve been handy for those using LCD monitors without an HDMI input.

Front ports are well spaced

Front ports are well spaced

 

In terms of connectivity, there are sufficient USB and eSATA ports as you’ve seen above. The built-in Wi-Fi feature means that you can stream videos, movies and songs straight from the internet or from a networked computer or NAS.

This is what lies beneath the Zino HD

This is what lies beneath the Zino HD

 

 

We also opened up the Zino HD and found a 3.5-inch Western Digital HDD and a TS-L633 DVD Drive from Toshiba-Samsung Storage Technology. As you can see, things are a little cramped but Dell has managed to squeeze in all of the components. Opening and closing the Zino HD wasn’t the easiest of things, so it’s not advisable to try it.

Ports behind are a bit cramped

Ports behind are a bit cramped

 

 

The bundled keyboard and mouse has been well thought of, but Dell should have gone that extra mile and provided wireless options for those who are looking to use this as an HTPC. Although both peripherals are designed well and are comfortable to use, it would have been a lot better if the user gets to operate the HTPC completely from the couch. A remote control is also an item that could have been bundled.
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Performance
The Dell Zino HD is no workstation, but it’s fast enough to run most of the daily desktop applications. The performance is better than the dual-core Atoms for sure. It scores 4,480 points in Cinebench for example, which is almost four times that of a typical dual-core netbook. The Phenom II X3’s third core gives the Zino HD the advantage in most CPU intensive applications. The discrete graphics solution, in this case, the Radeon 5450 helps a lot in the graphics performance. The OpenGL benchmark score in Cinebench is proof.

Benchmarks show a good performance by the Zino HD

Benchmarks show a good performance by the Zino HD

 

 

CPU utilization while playing back HD 1080p content is lower than on the recent Brazos platforms we reviewed. The CPU utilization hovered between 18 and 22 per cent. One of the other things that we noticed was that the Zino HD didn’t heat up a lot nor was it very noisy, which is quite an advantage when you’re watching movies.

Verdict
So we’ve seen that the Zino HD performs fairly well. But with a price tag of Rs. 30,900 is it really worth a buy? As a everyday use desktop, it’s probably not for you, if you don’t care about the form factor of your PC. One can easily build a decent system for around the same price, but obviously not one of the same size.

If you’re looking to build an HTPC, the Zino’s low power requirements of just 90W and its low-noise, low-heat characteristics should interest you. The Zino HD is certainly not a bad option to consider. However, if you’re looking for something cheaper and it’s just good HD playback you’re after, there are some other options such as the Acer Revo and ZOTAC’s Mag HD to consider.


Published Date: Feb 24, 2011 05:09 pm | Updated Date: Feb 24, 2011 05:09 pm