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Dell Zino HD Review

Dell Inspiron Zino HD: The cute and efficient Ion-killer?

Manufacturer: Dell
UK Price (as Reviewed): £630.29 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as Reviewed): TBC

I hate to draw parallels between Dell's Inspiron Zino HD and the Mac Mini, but it's inevitable. They're both very cute computers (All together: awwwww), and enthusiasts are likely to see in them the same kinds of possibilities: small home server, media PC, cheap tertiary machine, or something for Mum and Dad.

Where the Zino HD differs from the Mac Mini is its choice of CPU: the Dell uses ultra low power AMD parts. Underneath the interchangable blue hood is a mobile graphics chip - the Radeon HD 4330 512MB - and an Athlon X2 3250e. The Athlon is specifically OEM only, and rated at just a 22W TDP, it's very low power for a desktop CPU.

In fact, it's a standard dual-core K8 Athlon, but surprisingly it's still a 65nm chip - so it's not built using Global Foundaries' more recent 45nm manufacturing process. To achieve its low TDP, the 3250e is clocked to just 1.5GHz, with an identically clocked memory controller and a(n old school) 1GHz HyperTransport clock. It maybe twice-to-three-times as power hungry as an Intel Atom, but the benefit of the 3250e is that it's not been cut down - it still has full-fat Athlon performance, and despite the case being small, it's not a laptop, so expelling 22W of heat is relatively easy.

Dell Zino HD Review Dell Zino HD: The cute and efficient Ion-killer? Dell Zino HD Review Dell Zino HD: The cute and efficient Ion-killer?
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To justify the "HD" side of things, there's the Radeon HD 4330 that includes 512MB of local DDR2 memory, so it should be a little faster than integrated graphics which use system memory, and of course, it won't suck up a chunk of your main memory. This is a good job, as there's only 2GB in our Zino HD. The Radeon's in-built video decoding (UVD) hardware will take the stress off the low clocked CPU, providing your software is compatible with DXVA output. Our Zino HD has the Blu-ray option included, at a hefty cost we might add - you can select the plain old DVD-RW drive if you're not interested in this for your movies - and HDMI out completes the HD deal. It's worth noting the Mac Mini still doesn't come with HDMI, either.

Dell Zino HD Review Dell Zino HD: The cute and efficient Ion-killer?
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Unfortunately movies are the only way to get multi-channel audio from the Zino HD, because the onboard audio is limited to stereo. In addition, there are several USB ports front and back, Gigabit Ethernet and D-Sub out for those who don't have HDMI. In the front, there's also an SD card reader too.

Dell Zino HD Review Dell Zino HD: The cute and efficient Ion-killer? Dell Zino HD Review Dell Zino HD: The cute and efficient Ion-killer?
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As you can see the top pops off to allow you to replace it with an alternate colour version, for which Dell will kindly charge you £20 for the privilege, although it's waiving the charge in the UK until the 24th Feb. The blue here is lovely, however we must encourage the bit-tech plum purple in patriotism, although we figure some of you will be boooooring and decide on just piano black.

Feature List

  • AMD Athlon X2 3250e (1.5GHz dual-core, 7.5x200MHz)
  • 4GB DDR2-800MHz (5-5-5-18 timings)
  • Dell motherboard with AMD 780G chipset
  • ATI Mobile Radeon HD 4330 512MB DDR2 graphics
  • 1TB Samsung F3 hard drive
  • Slimline Blu-ray optical drive
  • "True Blue" replacement top
  • 1 year warranty, extendable via Dell's configuration pages