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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  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, February 22, 2011 - link

    The largest PicoPSU I see advertised is a 150W model, which claims 8A/96W of 12V power available. Trying to run a ~60W TDP video card and a 95W TDP processor off that sounds like a bad idea
  • pirspilane - Sunday, February 20, 2011 - link

    Did HDMI handshake problem occur in your testing of the ASRock Core100 HT? If so, how can it be fixed?

    I have a Core100, and have experienced loss of HDMI audio whenever the connection with my Denon AVR is interrupted. Example, I switch the AVR to a different input, when I switch back to the Core100 input, audio is gone, but video is still there.

    My PS3 has no problems with this, although there is a several second period before audio is re-established. Anyone else had a problem with a Denon/Core100 setup?
  • ganeshts - Monday, February 21, 2011 - link

    No handshake issue with an Onkyo 606. I don't have a Denon myself.. hopefully some other reader can chime in.

    By the way, you have a higher probability of finding someone with your setup on AVSForums (There is a dedicated thread for Core100 IIRC) :)
  • Ganesh_balan - Sunday, February 20, 2011 - link

    "A press switch to displace the lid is provided at the top and a Kensington lock slot is at the bottom."

    Doesn't look like the Kensington lock to me but the hard drive activity indicator. :)

    Please re-check! :D
  • ganeshts - Monday, February 21, 2011 - link

    Thanks! Fixed ( was writing another review concurrently and this got mixed up :| )
  • brucek2 - Monday, February 21, 2011 - link

    What types of content are typically 1080p60? I had thought most movies were 24fps and most tv shows were 30fps. I'm trying to understand how big a limitation the lack of 1080p60 is likely to be?
  • ganeshts - Monday, February 21, 2011 - link

    Camcorders are one of the main sources of 1080p60 content.

    Some camcorders which record at 1080p60 are: Sanyo HD2000 and Panasonic TM700. There are some other models from the 2 companies which are also 1080p60, but I don't remember offhand.

    In addition, user created videos can also be encoded on a PC at 1080p60.
  • sicofante - Monday, February 21, 2011 - link

    Industrial designers must be really expensive to be out of reach for Dell...

    Why is it that only Apple takes care of the looks of their hardware? It really puzzles me.

    This thing is so ugly only true geeks would have it in their living rooms.
  • myangeldust - Saturday, September 10, 2011 - link

    I push mine further back in the TV cabinet. It's all black so it dissappears in the shadows. Like that R2 unit with poorly matched color panels it knows it's ugly so stays in the background and doesn't complaints.
  • cjs150 - Monday, February 21, 2011 - link

    I agree with the comment about looks. Apple designs things that look pretty, the Dell looks like cheap plastic.

    Despite this why are getting close to an ideal HTPC. I know this is subjective but the ideal HTPC should be:

    1. Silent (or as close as possible, I do not want to hear it in a quiet bit of a movie)
    2. Audio should be capable of being sent through HDMI in all formats my AV receiver can cope with, but with option to use other connectors (some people prefer)
    3. Plays all mainstream formats.
    4. Has a TV receiver card (here in UK would be nice if it could replace my cable box but I doubt supplier will ever agree)
    5. IR receiver

    We are very close to ticking all the boxes. Still think it should have an SSD and a 2,5" HD (maybe SSD could replace the wireless card in the mini-PCI slot as my house is fully wired)

    Only one issue for me on the thermals of this box, and maybe I missing something but...

    The Dell Zino is obviously designed for sitting horizontally on something (why else have the feet on the bottom). Heat rises. To make ideal use of convection therefore the top should be perforated (a mesh would be ideal) to let heat escape and the sides perforated to allow cooler air to replace the hot air leaving the top. (this is not exactly rocket science is it!) So why on earth do designers place the optical drive at the top blocking a large amount of area where the heat would escape. Surely it is more sensible to have the optical drive (and 2.5" HD or SDD) underneath the motherboard.

    What am I missing - someone please explain

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