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

    An internal tuner would up the heat generated and require a larger case. But Dell should have offered the option for a tuner.

    A great HTPC would have a SSD and a NTSC/ATSC/radio dual tuner with a motorized slot drive for DVD/BD. The case could act as an antenna for TV/radio reception and made laptop thin to fit on the back of your HDTV. Though it would be a separate model for a more expensive niche market. Still cheaper than most Macs though.
  • tipoo - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    I've been waiting for an AT review of the Zino HD, thanks! I wonder if AMD's Brazos chips will make their way into this? Looks like it can handle much higher watt parts (ie the x4), but as a base config that would be nice.
  • Trefugl - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    I was going to make the same comment about Brazos.

    I've had my eye on the Dell Zino 410 for a long time, but now that Brazos is around I am thinking of either building something of my own or waiting until someone like Dell produces a system.

    Ganesh, do you know (or suspect) if Dell has a Brazos update to the Zino planned? I think a small system like that would be nearly perfect for an HTPC.
  • Edgar_Wibeau - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    My guess is, AMDs 2nd APU, Llano, will find its way into this Box. It will also solve the graphics-being-too-slow-issue if it is an issue for some. Llano is supposed to hit the market in summer. Llano will be based on 32nm tech and feature a GPU that is at least twice as powerful as the one in Zacate. The CPU part will also be significantly faster than Zacate as it will be the successor to the current Athlons/Turions/Phenoms in notebooks. On the down-side, it'll also be more expensive than Zacate of course.
  • ganeshts - Sunday, February 20, 2011 - link

    My educated guess is that the next generation Zino HD's base configs will be based on Zacate.

    Our initial look at Brazos indicates that it is as weak as the Mobility 5450. I wouldn't expect great things in the $300 - $500 configs.

    As you also mention, I am looking forward to the Llano to make an appearance in the high end configs. I expect none of the configs would need a discrete GPU making it easier for Dell ( but, first, Llano needs to come to the market ! )
  • Spacecomber - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    Would it have made any sense (and been practical) to get some numbers on the integrated 4250 graphics solution? I found myself wondering how much the advantage was with the upgrade to the discrete 5450.

    At some point, it would be helpful to get a sound-level meter, given how important (and subjective) judgements of what is quiet can be when talking about home theatre and audio PCs.

    Nevertheless, enjoyed the read; thanks for the review.
  • DanNeely - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    80SP @ 675 vs 40SP @ 500 is a 2.7x factor; and while a crude comparison is sufficient to show the 4250 would be crushed on light gaming benchmarks.

    The closest I could find in the first few pages of reviews here was a laptop with the 4225 (40SP @ 380) which is crushed by about 3x in FPS vs the 5450; I didn't see anything comparing their abilities in video decoding.
  • DNW - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    I am looking for a computer for my home theater. I never play games. I do watch a lot of television and movies. Blu ray performance would be important to me. I also have a large collection of 40 years of home movies originally shot on everything from beta to vhs to digital, all of which I have digitized and would like to watch.

    I need a computer and not a Google TV or WD Live box because these and similar solutions will not play all my videos, all of which play just great on a computer. My monitor is an Olevia 65" LCD TV. Is the size/type of TV a factor, or not factor?

    Will the Zino HD410 suffice for my purposes (if so, what configuration), or do I need to get something more powerful? Naturally, I would like to keep costs to a minimum, but not to the extent that my objectives are not met.
  • ganeshts - Sunday, February 20, 2011 - link

    If it is just Blu-Ray you are interested in, and not any recorded TV content / content from friends, then the Zino 410 as reviewed is good enough. I can't vouch for the capabilities of the other configs.

    The TV to which it is connected is not an issue 99% of the time. (Sometimes, there could be problems with HDMI handshake, but a quick Google search of 5450 + Olevia model number would reveal that)
  • capeconsultant - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    The 3.5 inch drive is hotter, uses more power, and takes up more space that could be used for thermal and/or design purposes. Desktop or NAS ONLY for 3.5 please.

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