The appearance of nettops around 2008 kick started the small form factor HTPC craze. Until that point of time, SFF HTPCs were restricted to the DIY crowd. However, the anemic nature of the Atom platform on which most nettops were based was a downer for many. The ION platform led to the appearance of a slew of SFF HTPCs which garnered widespread market acceptance. However, the core Atom processor left many people still disappointed.

A couple of years back, mobile CPUs from both AMD and Intel began to achieve the required performance within approximately the same power envelop as the processors being used in the nettops. Acer took the plunge first, introducing the Acer X1200 mini-PC in 2008, but it wasn't in the mini-ITX form factor.

Dell was, in fact, the first to introduce a mini-ITX SFF HTPC build with their first generation Zino 400 HD HTPC. The mobile CPUs, combined with the AMD chipset having an integrate GPU (3200) / option of a discrete 4330 mGPU created a lot of interest amongst the HTPC enthusiasts. Despite being well received, the units did have problem with poor thermal design.

Between the appearance of the Zino 400 and the Zino 410 that we are currently reviewing, companies like ASRock caught on to the trend and started offering mini-ITX SFF HTPCs with varying degrees of capability. Dell seems to be committed to AMD for their SFF HTPC solution, and the approach they have taken for the Zino 410 is the same as the one for the Zino 400. The Zino 410 is offered in various configurations, and users can pick and choose components as they see fit.

Let us take a look at the configuration of the review unit sent to us by Dell:

Dell Zino 410 HD HTPC Specifications
Processor AMD Phenom II X4 P940
(4x1.70GHz, 45nm, 2MB L2, 25W)
Chipset AMD M880G + SB820
Memory 1x4GB + 1x2GB DDR3-1333 (Max 8GB)
Graphics ATI Mobility 5450 1GB DDR3
80 SPs, 675/675/800 MHz Core/Shader/RAM clocks
Hard Drive(s) 750GB 7200RPM 3.5" HDD
(Western Digital Caviar Black WD7501AAES)
Optical Drive Blu-ray/DVDRW Combo
Networking Gigabit Ethernet
802.11n (Dell WLAN 1520)
Audio Microphone and headphone/speaker jacks
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming(SPDIF/HDMI)
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Extras THX TruStudio Pro Audio Certification
Interchangeable colour lid
IR receiver and MCE remote
Wireless Keyboard / Mouse
Pricing Starting Price: $300
Price as configured: $775

Dell maxed out their Zino 410 HD specifications in the review unit. It comes in at $775, and lies in between the ASRock Core 100 and the ASRock Vision 3D that we had reviewed earlier.

Do the capabilities of the system fall in between the two? Is the Dell system worth the cost? Before we get into the details, let us take a look at the unboxing impressions.

Unboxing Impressions
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  • myangeldust - Saturday, September 10, 2011 - link

    The hardware is nice. It's got a cleaner design and a motorized slot drive. But Apple's version of a media center app is just an extension of the pay-to-play iTunes store.
  • piroroadkill - Monday, February 21, 2011 - link

    A Mac Mini? Are you kidding? You'd be paying a lot more for a lot less. Less of everything.
  • speculatrix - Monday, February 21, 2011 - link

    but, apple fans, His Lordship said that bluray was a bag of hurt, so I can't believe you'd even consider such blasphemy

  • myangeldust - Saturday, September 10, 2011 - link

    Blu-day is DOA tech. Once solid state and flash drives come down, movies could be sold on tiny chips you pop into a read-only reader slot. You'll be able to fit your movie collection in your pocket. Maybe Case Logic can make a leather wallet for 500 movie chips. Dibs on the term "Movie Chip"©. DB will become a replacement to DAT in the data archive market.
  • Taft12 - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    I can't comprehend the need to use a 3.5" hard drive in this unit! Why such a noisy beast in a machine intended to be an HTPC???

    IIRC, the 2.5" 7200RPM WD Black 500GB performs as well (or better) than any 3.5" 7200RPM rotational HDs on the market today (I'll be dipped if I can find the review that showed that result at the moment unfortunately... anyone?)
  • Ratman6161 - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    On Newegg:

    3.5" 750GB Caviar Black: $69.99
    2.5" 750GB Scorpio Black $119.99
    2.5" 500GB Scorpio Black $69.99

    So, if you stick with 750GB and drop from 3.5 to 2.5 you add $50 to the price. Or if you want to keep the price the same you lose $250 GB. You make your choice and live with whichever compromise seems better to you.
  • Ratman6161 - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    The review unit used in the article seems to be behind the times. If you go to the Dell web site, now instead of 750GB it's 1TB. If you want 1TB in a 2.5 new egg has one for $119 but it is a 5400 RPM not 7200.

    So its a trade off between capacity, physical size, and price. Pick any two. Actually more complicated than that since performance is involved too. But you get the idea. Trade offs have to be made and the choice Dell made is a valid one - though no choice could please everyone.
  • DanNeely - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    This review was delayed for a while as Ganesh and Dell tried to troubleshoot video decode problems.
  • DanNeely - Sunday, February 20, 2011 - link

    The Zino scales down to a $300 unit, a which point the capacity/price penalty for a 2.5" drive becomes significant. After that it's just a case of simplifying the design by only using 3.5" drives. What I don't get is why Dell didn't follow through on the high end and take advantage of the form factor by offering a 2GB model for the people who don't want to access their giant collection over the lan.
  • taltamir - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    I can't comprehend the complaint about 3.5" drives. They are much bigger, significantly faster, much cheaper, and only take slightly more power (5 watts total power consumption on load, 2watts idle).

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