Dell Inspiron Zino HD
A PC to rival the Mac Mini, at last?
Review On the face of it, Apple’s Mac Mini makes most 'small form-factor’ PCs look like a pile of junk. The Mini’s ultra-compact design also makes it ideal for use in an office or as a stylish little media centre in the living room. Evidently, Dell has taken note - hence the appearance of its Inspiron Zino range of compact PCs.
Splits from Atom: Dell's Inspiron Zino HD
It’s always been surprising that no Windows PC has ever really come along to challenge the Mac Mini – especially given Apple’s creeping price hikes. The Mac Mini is now far from the low-cost Mac that it was originally intended to be, with the cheapest incarnation currently priced at £510. That’s hardly a bargain given that it doesn’t include a monitor, keyboard or mouse.
We’ve seen a few compact ‘nettop’ boxes, such as Acer’s Revo, in recent months, but these have tended to use low-power Atom processors that couldn’t pass muster as a proper desktop PC. However, Dell’s Zino HD packs a more powerful desktop processor.
Dell simply describes the Inspiron Zino HD as a "mini desktop computer" but its design clearly suggests that it’s intended as a living room media centre too. Measuring 195mm square and 85mm high, it’s larger than the 163 x 163 x 50mm Mac Mini. The Zino HD isn’t quite as neatly designed as the Apple, either. The black plastic chassis looks a bit cheap when sitting alongside the silvery metallic trim of the Mac.
Even so, it’s still a darn sight smaller and better looking than most SFF PCs. The top panel adds a dash of colour – Plum Purple for our review unit, although there’s range of other colours available, including exotic delights such as "Red Swirl" and "Green Scatter", which cost an extra £30.
The HD models are equipped with an HDMI port
The front panel presents you with two USB 2.0 ports, memory card slot, headphone socket and optical drive, while the rear of the unit provides two further USB 2.0 ports, two eSata ports, Gigabit Ethernet, audio input and output, and both VGA and HDMI interfaces for connecting to a computer monitor or HD TV.
Like a Golf
reminds me of the adverts currently running for the VW Golf. Why have a computer that's like a Mac Mini? This is slighlty bigger, slightly cheaper but in the whole not as good as the Mac Mini.
Macs DO make good media Centre's
The Mac Mini is an awesome media centre when coupled with the right software. Unfortunately (for apple) that software is Linux and XBMC! When its configured like this it will eat any content you throw at it, including 40Mbs+ Blu-Ray content at full 1080P (with not a frame drop in sight)
This Dell is a good attempt but for anyone running XBMC its a non starter as there is no H/W acceleration in XBMC on Windows unless you use external players (which is a pain to configure)
The reviewer is wrong about the audio
I can only assume that the reviewer is unfamiliar with HDMI connections. If you connect this via HDMI to a TV or better yet a 7.1 receiver it has no problem with digital audio out in 5.1 or 7.1 surround. I know what I'm talking about I just hooked one up.
Mac mini can handle HD
Actually this isn't true. The modern(ish) Mini's use the Geforce 9400 this is more than capable than pumping out 1080p video via XBMC or something. Also you can put one of those Broadcom Crystal HD cards in the Mini's Mini PCIE that seems to be working well too.
The Mac Mini also has optical in and out with a 3.5mm to S/PDIF cable, the same cable I used with my mini disc walkman.