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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  • plewis00 - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    I agree with you and was about to post this myself.

    If someone really wants a 2.5" hard disk why can't they use an adapter and remove the existing 3.5" unit. I bought a 2TB hard disk the other day for £60 (I'm in the UK), but that same amount of money would buy you a 500 or 640GB 2.5" model so I know what I'd rather have.

    I'd actually say rather than a complaint, Dell should actually be praised for fitting a 3.5" drive in there.
  • JNo - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    Absolutely agree. I think you're analysis that 2.5" would be better is disappointing Ganesh. And I highly doubt that an SSD boot drive option would be beneficial to many people. This is an HTPC after all and affordability is key for what is a secondary PC.

    I have an Xtreamer (google it) and it cost only £99 and plays every hi def file(s) I've chucked at it including mkv, ts, blu-ray file structures and much more and supports hi def sound outputting as well. It is fanless too. In fact unless you want PVR functionality / internet too, it makes more expensive HTPCs redundant.

    Only disappointment is that it only fits a 2.5" drive and the largest (at the time) 500Gb drive I put in was as much as a 1.5TB drive eco/green drive. And the new 3.5" eco/green drives are just as quiet as their 2.5" brethren. I think most people savvy enough to know they need an HTPC tend to have very large music / video collections so size is a big deal.
  • ganeshts - Sunday, February 20, 2011 - link

    The Caviar Black 750 GB is specified to have a power consumption at full load of 8.4W [ ].

    The Scorpio Black 750 GB (2.5", 7200rpm) is specified to have a power consumption of 1.75W when active [ ]

    My belief is that the extra ~7W could have been devoted to a better discrete GPU rather than having a 3.5" hard drive.

    Our well reviewed ASRock Vision 3D and Core 100 both have 2.5" hard drives, and I have hardly seen any reader / reviewers on other sites complain.

    Also, people savvy enough to think they need a HTPC also have an external storage solution (storage array or NAS), and the hard disk on the HTPC is just a temporary 'staging' ground.

    I still stand by my suggestion to Dell to move to a 2.5" hard drive for the next generation Zino.
  • Zoomer - Wednesday, March 2, 2011 - link

    I agree with taltamir on this. There is simply no reason to use 2.5" drives when there is space for 3.5". Some may buy this and use local storage. Even if they don't it's still cheaper to put a 3.5" in.

    Noise, most if not all HDDs can be set to reduce noise. Acoustic Managemet or something like that.

    The 2TB WD caviar green only requires 4.5 W when reading/writing. That's just 2.75 W, and barely worth considering.

    Maybe you can push dell to give people a choice. WD Green, Caviar black, or the 2.5" black. Why not the momentus XT?
  • JWade - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    I got the 410 to upgrade from the 400hd, i like it alot better. i got the dual core one not the quad core. it does everything i need it to and then some.

    I cant hear it make any noise at all, even when playing games with it. I use it with my 42" tv.

    something of note, Dell did make an atom version of the Zino too.
  • ganeshts - Sunday, February 20, 2011 - link

    Yes, I remember the Atom Zino.. But it wasn't called the Zino HD. Thanfully they moved away from the anaemic Atom for their first Zino HD.

    The first Zino HD was the Zino 400 and this is the second generation.

    Glad to hear you like the Zino 410. It is a pretty good system for the price, and depending on your usage scenario you probably won't even notice the shortcomings!
  • Bignate603 - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    I see a huge amount of HTPCs without the option for a TV tuner. For something that claims to be a HTPC it seems like a pretty blatant omission. It should at least be an upgrade you could order with it.
  • Taft12 - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link
  • hvakrg - Sunday, February 20, 2011 - link

    Well, if you use a good HTPC program like Mediaportal you don't need tuner in all your HTPCs, all you need is a TVserver. That can then feed TV to all your HTPC clients around the house. It's a great way to do it because you won't have to pull coax to all your rooms.
  • myangeldust - Saturday, September 10, 2011 - link

    HDHomeRun dual tuners. Placed near your TV antenna or in your coaxial closet and connected to your home network. Any TV in the house could become an HTPC by simply installing the tuner's device driver. Fully compatible with Windows Media Center.

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