Dell recently released the Dell Zino HD
, their own â€œnettopâ€ (mini desktop), and being an owner of the Zotac IONITX-A-U Dual Core Atom N330/ION motherboard, I had to give this a spin and see if it was any better. I was excited to learn that it had a graphic cards I have used in the past (the HD3200) which I had good experience with, a 3.5â€ desktop hard drive (allowing large space and fast speed) as well as Bluray drive option. How does it stack against the Zotac? Not as good as I had expected, but that doesnâ€™t mean itâ€™s a bad machine â€“ read on to learn more:
For being such a small computer, it came in a surprisingly big box (but then I remembered it comes with a keyboard/etc too haha):
It comes with the computer itself, small external power supply (hmm no Dell logo), laser mouse, usb keyboard, Win 7 installation CD, and manuals/pamphlets:
The Dell Zino HD comes with a variety of configuration options â€“ below are the options of the reviewed system (in bold) as well as the other options (The Zino here is the Zino HD 400):
|Processor:||AMD Athlon Neo X2 6850e 1.8GHz, 1MB L2
AMD Athlon X2 3250e 1.6Ghz, 1MB L2
AMD Athlon 2850e 1.8Ghz, 25w, 512mb L2 cache
AMD Athlon 2650e 1.6, 15w, 512mb L2 cache
|OS:||Windows 7 Home or Professional
Windows Vista Home or Premium
|Memory:||Up to 8GB DDR2-800|
|Hard Drive:||160GB, 250GB, 320GB, 500GB, 750GB, 1TB 7200RPM|
|Optical Drive:||8xDVD-RW or DVD-RW/Bluray Rom|
|Graphics:||ATI Mobility Radeon HD3200
ATI Mobility Radeon HD4330
|Sound:||Integrated audio with analog stereo and 5.1 (through HDMI)|
|WiFi (mini pci-e):||
Broadcom BCM57780 10/100/1000
Two USB 2.0 connectors
One headphone connector
One microphone connector
One line-out connector
One VGA connector
One RJ45 connector (10/100/1000)
two USB 2.0-compliant connectors
two eSATA connectors
Height: 197mm (7.8")
As with most other desktops, you can easily upgrade the memory, hard drive, optical drive etc (except there are no pci slots, so there are no options to upgrade the video card or add a pci tv tuner). Dell has a very useful step by step illustrated guide for dismantling the computer, or you can follow below to remove/upgrade the optical drive, hard drive, mini pci-e card, or memory:
- Optical drive: First, push the button on the back to release the top cover. (If you have a built in WiFi card, you will need to unscrew the antennas from the bracket – I did not have this option, but it will be obvious where to unscrew). Then remove the single screw holding on the top bracket and pull it straight up to remove.
Next, remove the single screw holding the optical drive in, slide it out a bit (towards the front) and remove the single cable connect to the back. Thatâ€™s it.
- Hard drive: Continue on by removing the single screw securing the power button to the drive bay. Then remove the two screws securing the drive bay (one is located along the front edge on the right, and the other along the left edge near the front):
With the screws removed (or loose, since itâ€™s hard to get your fingers down in there to remove them), slide the drive bay a bit towards the back and lift up.
With the single cable (power and data) that is plugged into the drive now accessible, remove it and pull the drive bay out of the machine. Remove the four screws holding the hard drive to the drive bay. Thatâ€™s it.
- Mini PCI-E card: with the drive bay removed, you now have easy access to the single screw holding in mini pci-e card. Simply remove the screw, and pull it out. Thatâ€™s it. (I did not have a wifi card, so you donâ€™t see one in the picture!)
- Memory: Flip the desktop over, so you can see the bottom. Two of the feet have screws â€“ simply unscrew them and lift off the bottom cover. Unclip the memory sticks and pull them out. Thatâ€™s it.
Hooking this up to a P3 International P4400 Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor, I measured the following power usage during different usage states:
- Sleep: 1 watt
- Idle: 24 watts
- Boot: 41 watts
- Watching HD: 50 watts
- Under load (using HyperPi): 53 watts
This system uses the same, or more, power than the IONITX-A-U setup I reviewed the other day. However, keep in mind that this Zino uses a 3.5â€ 7200RPM hard drive and, Iâ€™m not sure if it matter, but 8gb of memory â€“ as well as the AMD HD3200 is not as â€œlow powerâ€ as the nVidia ION.
There are no options to overclock the processor like there are for the Atom N330 in the Zotac IONITX board, so I felt that the Zotac (at 2.0ghz) already had a leg up on the Zinoâ€™s AMD 6850e. But what do the benchmarks say?
Dell Zino 1.8Ghz
IONITX 1.6Ghz (OCâ€™d to 2.0GHz)
|W7 Score||Processor: 4.5
Hard Disk: 5.9
Hard Disk: 5.2
According to the Windows 7 scores, it appears that the ION graphics are better than the AMD HD3200, but the AMD Neo 6850e processor is better than the Intel Atom N330. However PCMark and 3DMark seem to say the opposite with the IONITX receiving higher 3DMarks but lower PCMarks. And then we have the hyperpi results which show about twice the performance for the Dell. I donâ€™t really have an explanation for the conflicting reports, or which one is more reliable (my guess would be pc/3dmark), but I can say that through all my testing of both machines, the IONITX system felt faster.
Bluray playback: It plays back just fine on my LG 40LH47 @ 1080p â€“ no stuttering/skipping/etc â€“ as long as you donâ€™t move the mouse to make the PowerDVD menu pop up. As soon as you do anything except watch the movie, it will start to stutter. That being said, when you are watching a movie, you arenâ€™t doing any other foreground task, so youâ€™ll be fine.
Using Media Center to watch/record: Like watching Bluray, if you are just simply watching HD or SD, youâ€™ll be fine. However, if you are navigating through the Media Center menu or guide with TV playing in the background, it will get a bit laggy / not very smooth. However, if you are recording and the menu is lagging, the recording will still be fine; Itâ€™s just a bit annoying when the menu lags at times. Watching a recorded show or live TV while recording a different station works fine â€“ the live/recorded playback is smooth and the recording is good too. For reference, I was using a Hauppauge HVR-950Q USB QAM HDTV tuner (it works great, and all you need to do is plug it in and windows 7 automatically installs it â€“ oh how I love simplicity)
HDMI & Connecting to an HDTV:
Upon connecting it to my TV for the first time, I immediately had two problems. 1) the audio wasnâ€™t working and 2) it wasnâ€™t showing full screen.
The second issue however has been a pain in my neck since I received the computer. No matter what I do (other than turning on â€œzoomâ€ on my tv), I cannot get the display to fill the screen!
Iâ€™ve tried uninstalling and updating to the latest Catalyst drivers, going through all the setting options in the Catalyst control center â€“ nothing works. I tried plugging it into my 720p 26â€ as well, and same issue. To make sure it wasnâ€™t some crazy setting on the TVâ€™s, I verified again that my Inspiron 14z, Studio 15, and Zotac all displayed in full screen just fine on both TVâ€™s. (Iâ€™ve waited in dell chat support for a bit but gave up as I didnâ€™t have time when Iâ€™ve tried â€“ and Iâ€™m already a bit upset about them cancelling/replacing the order for this and therefore invalidating my, and many othersâ€™, Bing.com cash back). Hopefully Iâ€™ll be able to figure out a solution (any suggestions?).
In the meantime, however, I am able to select a zoom type of setting on my LG and everything looks fine (though I can see that there is still a column or two of pixels that arenâ€™t being used on the screen) so itâ€™s not QUITE there. Iâ€™m going to give Dell the benefit of the doubt that itâ€™s something Iâ€™m not doing rightâ€¦
It’s quiet (enough). Yes, if you really try to listen for it, you can hear the fan – but if you stick it in your tv stand / next to the tv / etc and you are sitting on the couch, you won’t notice it if you’re not looking for it (at least, I didn’t). The fan is at least quieter than the fan included with the Zotac. The Zino looks to be using a 60mm x 60mm x 25mm fan, the key here being the 25mm thickness — the fan on the Zotac is 10mm thick (thin), and I assume it has to therefore spin faster to get more airflow (because of smaller fins), which causes more noise.
The optical drive is also quiet – during playback of Transformers Bluray, I never once noticed any noise from the bluray drive.
Just to try to get a better feel for how big the Zino is, hereâ€™s a few pictures with it next to other devices (iPhone 3Gs, 3.5â€ desktop hard drive, and a M350 mini-itx case):
I love how the â€œmini desktopâ€ is starting to take off, and even more glad that Dell as jumped in (because they will soon show up in the outlet, and you can usually get in on great outlet coupon deals!). The Dell Zino HD 400 is a good fit if you are looking to use it to watch HDTV and Bluray, record HDTV, playback general media files, etc while keeping it in a small, sleek package to compliment the style of your home entertainment center.
Compared to similar setups you can build yourself however, I donâ€™t see enough of a performance boost in these low power AMD chips (which are supposed to compete with the Atoms) to justify the higher cost in the Zino. The Zotac dual core Atom with ION did not choke in any of my bluray, hdtv watching/recording tests â€“ but the Zino did (keep in mind, however, the Zino did fine when you werenâ€™t navigating the media center menu while watching/recording).
In short, if you can get a good deal on a Zino and you plan to use it basically as a â€œtivo boxâ€, then go for it. If you happen to have a spare mini-itx case, hard drive, and/or memory laying around, I would suggest looking into the Zotac line of dual core atom with ION setups, as it feels like it performs better (at least in the media tests I threw at them).