After a bunch of beers on Thanksgiving Day, and 20% Bing Cashback, I ordered a Zino HD from Dell. Well, I am already a Dell guy so it was not like I drunk-dialed. Anyway, after a month of waiting it finally arrived this week! The cost after Bing was $199.

So, what do you get for $200 from the Dell Zino HD?

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The Dell Zino HD

When you buy the Inspiron Zino HD you get a nice, clean, small PC that should work well for a HTPC. In fact, the main reason I bought the Zino HD was as a Christmas present for my sister. The Dell Zino HD should go well with her 50” and her LX195.

For those of you on “the edge” of buying a PC for your living room this might be the one to push you over. It is small enough not attract the attention of your spouse, inexpensive enough to not stand out on a credit card bill and quiet enough to sit behind the poinsettia without getting noticed.

As you can see, on the order shown below, I ordered the Zino with just the basic drive and memory but opted for Windows 7 Premium and the wireless card. I would not usually recommend the purchase of the $30 wireless upgrade but I wanted her to be able to use it right away. We can run a patch cable under the house once the weather warms up. In addition, the size of the drive was not important since she has the WHS to take care of any video and media storage.

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Dell Zino Upgrades

The basic model currently starts $249 but they have sales about once a month and you can get one for the same price with a few upgrades during these special deals.

You can also get different colors for the plastic top. Um yeah. It already looks like a stack of mouse pads. Lets not make it look dumb.

If you get a Zino HD nicely equipped (Win7 Premium, 4GB, 1 TB, 512MB Video) you are looking at about $633. Ouch. Not worth it on the higher end model unless you just love the size and style…of a stack of mouse pads.

No Blu-Ray?

Oh, and the Blu-Ray is no longer in the configuration options. WTH? It is mentioned on the website but not available to order now. Are there some issues Dell? I know my one year old Studio Hybrid had a boatload of BR issues up front and still stutters on some movies. Come on Dell. Everyone else is getting it right.

Zino HD Exterior

It is about 8 inches square and looks like (wait for it…) a stack of mouse pads. It has a nice glossy finish but that cannot be seen in the picture since I did not remove the protective plastic.

Two USB connections, one audio and a SD card reader on the front.

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The back has a HDMI port that is under the VGA I connected to my test stand. There are two USB and two eSATA connections along with the gigabit network connection and audio jacks. I am not sure why Dell would have eSATA connections. I mean it is nice but I would have rather had an audio optical out.

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Zino HD Inside

The plastic top pops off without tools. Inside you can see the two antenna for the wireless.

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Remove a couple of screws and you are inside the unit. There is a slim DVD drive with the hard drive underneath.

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For the size, I expected to see a laptop drive but there is actually a full size hard drive inside. There is not any room inside for anything else.

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Performance

The Zino HD does well for what it is. You are not going to game on the Zino, or render fur, but you can watch some decent HD content and chill with some good 2.1 music through your entertainment center and WMC. It has an AMD Athlon processor and a 780G chipset that should keep you going freeze free for most of what you need.

Also, keep in mind that this is Energy Star® compliant so the performance is proportional. In fact, my new EVGA video card at idle will still use twice the electricity as the entire Zino HD does under load.

Zino HD Specs

The Dell Tech Specs can be found at:

http://www.dell.com/us/en/corp/desktops/inspiron-zino-hd/pd.aspx?refid=inspiron-zino-hd&s=corp

and the manuals can be found at:

http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/systems/insp400/en/index.htm

The out of the box the rating is 3.2, limited by the basic Radeon HD3200 graphics.

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Again, I got the basic Zino HD configuration but it should be more than enough for DVDs, Hulu and Windows Media Center. Viva WMC. Seriously.

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Video

This is the same ATI Mobility Radeon™ HD 3200 that is found in laptops. It has the HDMI so you are good to go with basic HD video. The GPU should be enough to drive your flat screen.

As with all of my setups, I get everything installed and tested prior to delivery. Windows Media Center worked great and the HD samples were clean and clear.

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My basic install set always includes:

  • Zune
  • iTunes
  • Windows Media Center (Download Updates)
  • Windows Live Suite
  • Roxio/Cyberlink/Dell Media Direct
  • HD sample clips from Microsoft
  • Windows Defender and Security Essentials

Microsoft clips are available for download at:

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/musicandvideo/hdvideo/contentshowcase.aspx

Conclusion

The Dell Zino HD is really tight, clean, small and would make a good addition to any living room entertainment center.

As for a WHS? No. It would never be any better than the LX195 which is already cheaper from the start. A Dell Zino HD with the same compliment as the LX195 and a WHS OEM would be $443. Ouch.

As a sole entertainment PC, adding the AMD dual core and the video upgrade starts to get expensive at around $500, so play around with the configurations as you compare.

That being said, if you are looking for a quick and inexpensive way to get Windows Media Center (via HDMI) to your TV then the basic unit is something you should consider.

Of course you could always go bigger…

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Happy Holidays to all of you.

See you next Friday night,

Tim