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Of course, whether you actually need this extra power on what could well end up simply as a media playback device is questionable. A more modest Athlon II X2 P360 version is available for £349 - £180 less than the model I tested - but at this price you also have to sacrifice the Blu-ray drive, a gigabyte of memory and a large slice of storage space.
Not the easiest box to upgrade
Although the coloured lid pops off nicely, getting at the guts of the system is a little more involved. Ignoring the fact that I’d actually have to put the blighter back together again, I began whipping out any screw I could get my hands on, which allowed me to remove the top of the chassis, slide out the Blu-ray drive out and wiggle the hard drive cage free. This revealed the miniature motherboard, wireless card and a single memory slot with 2GB of DDR 3 Ram loaded. The other 2GB module is accessed by removing a separate panel on the underside of the chassis.
Unsurprisingly, a fan constantly whirrs away in order to keep the rather cluttered internals from burning up. It’s barely audible so won’t ruin your film watching, but it does kick out a fair bit of heat and requires plenty of breathing space.
Given this piece of kit is clearly designed to be attached to a big-screen, it’s a shame there’s no TV tuner included in the price. You can, however, add one, complete with remove control, for a £20 premium. With the cramped conditions inside I’m guessing the tuner comes in the form of a separate USB stick.
Spec as reviewed
Next page: Benchmark Results
Easy I have much media on external drives. Moving it around on USB 2.0 is starting to take a long time! Media ain't getting any smaller and nor are my disks!
I'm in the market for a small media centre style machine like this...to replace the ageing hunk that is my desktop!
Designed for the telly?
I'm sorry, but I have to disagree. A few month ago I have been able to power up one of those Zinos on my TV-set. It came fresh out of the box, booted, and greeted me with a desktop with a thick black border. It took me half an hour of browsing through various menus to find the setting to turn that off.
It seems like the software on the box assumed I misconfigured my television to zoom in onto the picture and tries to compensate that by scaling down the original picture and adding a black border. That's just sick! Doesn't anybody even try out that design before getting it produced?
Huh? "Windows has NO place in an HTPC
Windows Media Centre is actually very good as a HTPC.
The UI is done well, all of the TV tuners available work with it, it works extremely well, and there is a healthy collection of useful third-party and enthusiast add-ons and utilities. If you'd bother to take a look, you may be pleasantly surprised.
Of course, if you simply take every chance you can get to rubbish Windows and push Linux, even when inappropriate, then I've just wasted a few minutes of my time.
I'm looking into getting one of these to replace my "Frankenstein" machine which I ended up donating the system board out to a good cause.
Price was one of the factors I was considering, along with the ability to hook it up to a TV out of the box.
It's not that I don't have a decent, wide screen flat panel monitor. I do.
It's not that I don't have a decent, regular desktop style computer desk. I've got that as well.
I wanted something readily portable but not a laptop.
As far as the operating system goes, here are my thoughts:
Box is cheaper than Mac Mini (So, no Mac machine for me, sorry Steve.)
Called with Dell, and tried to get them to forgo the windows tax. They wouldn't budge on it.
Would want to put Windows 7 64 bit on it, but if I couldn't get that, maybe experiment with Windows XP Media Center instead.
I could put Linux on it, but this machine will be replacing the only computing gaming machine at home.