By | November 30, 2017

At just 5 x 3.5 inches, Dell’s zino HD desktop PC will fit anywhere in your home–on your desk, in your entertainment center, or in the kitchen. And with a sleek and contemporary Piano Black finish, it won’t look out of place. With a 750GB hard drive and HDMI port, it makes an ideal home media machine, for loading up with your music and HD video, but it’s equally suited for day-to-day computing tasks.
This compact desktop takes up about as much shelf space as the recent Apple Mac mini (HDMI) ($699 list, 4.5 stars), even though it’s a bit taller. It has a quad-core processor, decent discrete graphics, a large 750GB, 7,200-rpm hard drive, MCE remote, integrated IR sensor for the remote, 6GB of DDR3 memory, and a Blu-ray drive. It’s almost a perfect PC companion to an HDTV—the only thing missing is a TV tuner, so the system can work as a DVR. Assuming that you already have a cable company DVR, then the system becomes the perfect HDTV companion. At this moment, the Dell Inspiron Zino HD is the best candidate for your home theater PC, so we award it the Editors’ Choice for compact desktop PCs.
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The Zino HD (Inspiron 410)’s outer appearance is essentially unchanged from the Inspiron 400 version. It has the same 3.5-by-8-by-8-inch (HWD) chassis,and you can order up to three different colored lids in addition to the standard glossy black lid. Our review unit had the Mercury Silver lid; the other available colors are Tomato Red and Peacock Blue. There’s a tray-loading optical drive and 4-in-1 media card reader in the front, and a plethora of ports in the back. Most notably, the Zino HD (Inspiron 410) has a HDMI-out port for connections to large monitors or HDTVs, a VGA port, a S/PDIF port for digital audio, and two eSATA ports for external hard drives. It’s a good thing it’s so well connected, as internal expansion is impossible, as the Zino HD (Inspiron 410) isn’t user serviceable.
Our review unit came configured with a bunch of high-end upgrades. The desktop has a Blu-ray player (BD-ROM) with DVD- and CD-burning capabilities. The system came with 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, which means you can connect to dual-radio routers with both 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz connectivity. The 5-GHz channel is a lot less crowded than the more common 2.4-GHz channels.
My unit came bundled with a a full-sized wireless keyboard and mouse; Dell also sells a more compact wireless keyboard with built-in trackball, which is better suited for couch use. Since we’re nit-picking, the Zino HD (Inspiron 410)’s external power brick makes the overall package a little bulky: The Mac mini’s internal power supply eases installations and keeps the system’s svelte lines intact.
There isn’t any bloatware or extraneous ads on the desktop that sometimes show up on retail PCs. It comes with a usable copy of Office 2010 Starter preloaded, and you can of course upgrade that to a full version online for a fee. The system comes with Cyberlink PowerDVD software integrated into the Media Center interface, so you can view home videos, DVDs, and Blu-ray movies without leaving MCE. The system also comes with Roxio CD/DVD burning software. The only (slight) stumble is the short 30-day subscription to McAfee SecurityCenter (antivirus, anti-malware, etc.)—it really should be 15 months like it was on the previous iteration, the Dell Inspiron Zino HD (Inspiron 400).
The Zino HD (Inspiron 410) is certainly fast enough to support HD viewing on a HDTV or large screen monitor. The system smoothly displayed Web videos, DVDs, and Blu-ray movies. The system’s quad-core AMD Phenom II X4 P940 processor and ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5450 graphics helped its smooth video and passable multimedia performance. Its scores of 4 minutes 11 seconds on our Handbrake test and 9:44 on Photoshop CS5 are within the same class as the Apple Mac mini (HDMI), our small/compact-form-factor Editors’ Choice. Likewise, the Zino HD can far outperform the compact nettops like the Giada Slim-N20 ($449 direct, 3.5 stars) (12:19 Handbrake, 23:29 CS5) and Lenovo IdeaCentre Q150 ($399 direct, 4 stars) (12:31 Handbrake, 23:38 CS5).
The Zino HD (Inspiron 410) isn’t a high-end 3D gaming performer, but it is able to run Crysis at a respectable 22 frames per second (fps) and Lost Planet 2 at 15 fps. Though you wouldn’t want to play these games at these frame rates, it does mean that you have a good chance of playing older and less strenuous 3D games on your HDTV, like Doom 3 or Halo. Its certainly got enough oomph to play simpler 3D games like World of Warcraft and Spore. This performance is a vast improvement over the nettops, which can’t even run the 3D games.
The Zino HD (Inspiron 410) is a prime example of a compact entertainment PC meant to hook up to a HDTV or large-screen monitor. Since it has full Windows compatibility, it’s more powerful on the Web and more flexible than Google TV adjuncts like the Logitech Revue or Sony’s Blu-ray player with Google TV. It’s a smidge bigger than the Mac mini, but it also comes with so much more in that larger chassis. Besides, both systems take up about the same amount of shelf space. The Mac mini is a faster system if you’re going to be creating and manipulating videos and photos, but the simple fact of the matter is that the Zino HD is a better multimedia consumption device due to its Blu-ray player, much larger hard drive, more memory for better multitasking, and Windows 7 operating system. Sure, you can install Windows on the Mac mini in Boot Camp, but on the Mac you’ll have to buy Windows Home Premium for $100. Though services like Netflix, Hulu, and Boxee are available on Macs, unless you’re monogamous with iTunes, Windows has many more entertainment options like CinemaNow, Media Center, Rhapsody, etc. About the only thing keeping the Zino HD (Inspiron 410) from gaining a higher overall score is the lack of a TV tuner and the short 30-day Internet security subscription.

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