Dell Zino HD Review


Dell recently released the Dell Zino HD
, their own “nettop” (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 3.5” 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 doesn’t mean it’s a bad machine – 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):

box1 box2

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:

stuffpower supplymousekeyboard 


The Dell Zino HD comes with a variety of configuration options – 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
Mini PCIe WLAN card (802.11 b/g or 802.11 a/b/g/n)

Front Ports:

Two USB 2.0 connectors

One headphone connector

One 4-in-1 memory card reader
front ports

Rear Ports:

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

one HDMI connector
rear ports


Height: 197mm (7.8")
Width: 197mm (7.8")
Depth: 89mm (3.4")
Weight: 1.6kg (3.53lb)


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.
    remove topremove bracket
    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.  That’s it.
    unscrew opticalslide out
  • 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):
    power button
    With the screws removed (or loose, since it’s hard to get your fingers down in there to remove them), slide the drive bay a bit towards the back and lift up. 
    drive bay
    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.  That’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.  That’s it.  (I did not have a wifi card, so you don’t see one in the picture!)
  • Memory:  Flip the desktop over, so you can see the bottom.  Two of the feet have screws – simply unscrew them and lift off the bottom cover.  Unclip the memory sticks and pull them out.  That’s it.
    bottom covermemory

Power Usage:

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 3.5” 7200RPM hard drive and, I’m not sure if it matter, but 8gb of memory – as well as the AMD HD3200 is not as “low power” 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 Zino’s AMD 6850e.   But what do the benchmarks say?


Dell Zino 1.8Ghz

IONITX 1.6Ghz (OC’d to 2.0GHz)

PCMark Vantage



3DMark Vantage



W7 Score Processor: 4.5
Memory: 6.0
Graphics:  3.4
Gaming: 4.9
Hard Disk: 5.9
Processor: 3.7
Memory: 4.8
Graphics: 4.6
Gaming: 5.4
Hard Disk: 5.2
HyperPi 1M: 50.684s
2M: 116.485s
1M: 97.494s
2M: 222.986s

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 don’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 – no stuttering/skipping/etc – as long as you don’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 aren’t doing any other foreground task, so you’ll be fine. 

Using Media Center to watch/record:  Like watching Bluray, if you are just simply watching HD or SD, you’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;  It’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 – 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 – 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 wasn’t working and 2) it wasn’t showing full screen.

The audio problem is an easy fix, just simply go to the sound settings and select the HDMI audio as the default sound device :)
default sound

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 “zoom” on my tv), I cannot get the display to fill the screen!


I’ve tried uninstalling and updating to the latest Catalyst drivers, going through all the setting options in the Catalyst control center – nothing works.  I tried plugging it into my 720p 26” as well, and same issue.   To make sure it wasn’t some crazy setting on the TV’s, I verified again that my Inspiron 14z, Studio 15, and Zotac all displayed in full screen just fine on both TV’s.   (I’ve waited in dell chat support for a bit but gave up as I didn’t have time when I’ve tried – and I’m already a bit upset about them cancelling/replacing the order for this and therefore invalidating my, and many others’, cash back).  Hopefully I’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 aren’t being used on the screen) so it’s not QUITE there.  I’m going to give Dell the benefit of the doubt that it’s something I’m not doing right…

Noise levels:

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.

Size Comparisons:

Just to try to get a better feel for how big the Zino is, here’s a few pictures with it next to other devices (iPhone 3Gs, 3.5” desktop hard drive, and a M350 mini-itx case):

zino hdd iphone 2 zino hdd iphone 3 zino hdd iphone zino and m350

Final Thoughts:

I love how the “mini desktop” 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 don’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 – but the Zino did (keep in mind, however, the Zino did fine when you weren’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 “tivo box”, 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). 


  • Very small and compliments a home theater setup
  • Bluray capable and optional
  • Can playback/record HD at the same time, as well as Bluray without issue
  • ~$160 to upgrade to 8GB from dell (if you so choose), whereas ~$270 elsewhere
  • Great connectivity (hdmi, dvi, esata, 6-usb, fron card reader)


  • A little sluggish doing other tasks (accessing menu) while watching bluray/media center (even with 8gb and fastest processor option)
  • More power hungry than a Zotac IONITX-A-U setup yet without a noticeable performance increase

45 thoughts on “Dell Zino HD Review”

  1. Thank you for this review and photos of how to get to the WiFi card slot. I’ve been looking everywhere for such a precise review and you’re it. I’m trying to figure out what I can do with my single core 1.8ghz 2850e Zino. I picked it up cheap but now wonder if I should have gotten something better for basic every day use. I’m mostly concerned with its difficulty of playing Flash based web content.

    I have the same HDMI issue with the picture not filling my Sony Bravia 40 LCD screen. It’s off about half an inch on all the sides.

  2. @Slav, have you tried installing the latest beta of Flash? It will be able to utilize the GPU (hd3200) to assist in playing back flash much more smoothly.

    As far as the picture not filling the screen, I have yet to figure it out myself…I may just try installing W7 from scratch and go from there

  3. About the border issue with hdmi:
    It’s a setting in catalyst drivers , I thought my Samsung lcd was broken and almost returned it.

    i am using windows 7 64 bit and the latest catalyst driver, 9-11.
    the option for underscan/overscan is there just not easy to find.
    you need to choose “desktop and displays”,
    there in the bottom left you see a little monitor, right click it and select configure.
    from there, you will find the hdmi settings and overscan/underscan.

  4. @Leter F. Thank you very much for this info. As of last night I am also running Windows 7 64bit with the latest Catalyst, and although I went through the settings I did not see the HDMI options.

    @James Thank you as well for the info of Flash beta. Using the 10.1 beta 2 it runs smooth in the smaller web based window, but it drops a few frames when going full screen. Still, it’s a huge improvement over the previous choppy video.

    I ordered 4gigs of Ram for my single core Zino hoping it will help it multitask a little better. With 2 gigs, Ram meter is always hovering around 45%, meaning about a gig is used just to run Win7. Opening up a couple Mozilla windows takes it to the 80% mark.

    None flash video seems to run extremely well. All of my Divx .AVI files are running full screen without a hitch. That’s mainly what I need this for next to my TV so I’m very happy. I’m going to install the WiFi card next week. Thanks again for all the info.

  5. Ooops, wish there was a way to edit the comments. Meant to say “Peter F” not Leter…and “non-Flash video” in the comment above.

  6. oke, you could not find the HDMI options?
    Click the catalyst control center icon in your taskbar so it will open the ccc welcome screen.
    Now dont press basic or ok , just go to the left top of the CCC (catalyst control center)screen and click on Graphics.
    A slider will open , now click on desktop and displays.
    a new screen will open which has a small LCD icon in the left bottom corner.
    Right click the icon and choose “configure”.
    Now your in the Hdmi option screen and you can choose the “scaling options”
    Set overscan to 0 and it’s all full screen hdmi again :)

    Strange Ati did not set it to 0 standard.

    Good luck!!

    Peter F.

  7. Hi and thanks for the article. I ordered a Zino hd 400 my self.
    Am i to understand you ordered 8gb upgrade and stuck with the low end graphics?
    My Zino was $349. with the amd HD4330,Athlon x2 3250 1.5ghz. The cpu speed is a little low but the discrete graphics will help make up for the lack of speed. Am I misunderstanding this, the HD44330 is the high end version?
    It only comes with 3gb ram but I have a 2gb ram sodimm at home and in your pics it looks like sodimm. Thats for the pics and the review.

  8. Thank You very much for the detailed review on the Dell Zino 400 HD. I have one coming in 12/24/2009 (Christmas Eve). I missed out on the Black Friday (11/27/2009) Sale for; $199.00 + $60.00 Dell Gift Card, Plus Free Shipping. Found out too late on that deal, but I did find one on eBay for $209.00 (New, Never Opened, and Factory Sealed, they kept the gift card!) to my door. That is less than I would have paid for it from Dell with the sales tax. The only thing I would have gotten if I had ordered it direct is the 1397 wireless card. Which I have found a New Dell 1397 PCIe wireless card for $12.99 delivered, but I need to figure out what to do about the antenna wires (where to get them, how to route them, and so on). I wish the one you reviewed had the card, then it would be a snap to see one in place.
    Anyway, Thank You again for the great review and pics.
    Tucson Arizona

  9. Hi,

    I downloaded the new ati drivers 9.12 and I cannot find the underscan option. Its very annoying to have that border. I also purchased the 1520 wlan card separately and I probable placed wires incorrectly because the signal is very low. When I disable the 1520 card and place a netgear usb stick the signal is very strong. The fan is also bit noise it seems to be at full speed its not quiet as I thought it would have been.


  10. I just found out 9.12 does have underscan what you have to do is right click on the bottom left screen and it will have configure not the screen in the middle. Now to solve the wifi low signal problem.

  11. Awesome review brother! It’s nice to see these thorough reviews coming from the community. These ‘pro’ sites just don’t have the experience or understanding that we need. Also, thanks for comparing it to the newer 330/ION setups. That is the best comparison, and exactly what most of us are looking for now. Again, kudos on a great write-up.

  12. Interesting review. I bought the Zino with the 6850e processor, HD4330, 3GB Ram, 320GB hard drive, DVD-RW, wireless-n, and Win 7. The system is very responsive, and I don’t have any of the Media Center UI or stuttering issues which you experienced with the HD3200. With a promo code and bing cash back, my Zino came to $362. So for anyone that can find a similar deal, it’s definitely a much better choice (and better looking, aesthetically) in my opinion.

  13. sputnik—- i cant seem to find the bing cashback choice(dell doesnt show up as a cashback store) and neither can I find a suitable coupon..

    Any help would be appreciated.

  14. Totempole, there’s currently no bing cashback for dell, but you can wait around for it to come back (I bought mine at the end of November with 20% cashback). However, the promo discount that I used was similar to the one cpharada posted above, except I also received free shipping (with the current available code, my system comes to $449 with shipping and tax included…which is still pretty good).

  15. Thanks for the info Cpharada and Sputnik! Appreciate the help.. still trying to decide whether i should ditch my aspirerevo 1600 to go with this.. the revo is the single core atom variant i bought a month ago and its fine for most tasks but I want to ditch cable and record OTA hdtv. Not sure if it can handle all of this.. this is where hopefully the zino will step in :)

    Plus, for some reason Im getting massive screen tearing(on my sharp aquos 42″) when watching netflix streaming in media center (or browser). Gives me a head ache. Im hoping switching to an ATI card will help things since things like scaling are features u can tweak in the catalyst drivers and not in the nvidia drivers.

  16. Regarding the black border, I am not sure how LG’s are set up, but Peter F mentioned he has a Samsung. On my 2 year old Samsung, one must use HDMI port 1 to get the full native resolution of the panel. My black borders went away by switching to HDMI 2 (only allowed 1280X768) to HDMI 1 which automatically chaged the resolution to 1360X??? (don’t remember the exact numbers, I’m at work). So maybe trying all the panels HDMI ports may help.
    Happy New Year

  17. I am still waiting for my Zino, who knows when Dell will ship it.
    In the meantime I hooked up my home built desktop with an old ati hd2600xt. I had the 9.12 catalyst drivers but was having trouble with the border issue. I dont get a digital signal where I live so I dont use the hd aspect ratio. I realized after some time that the ati driver was set right but I was using the wrong aspect ratio. When I set it to HD the screen fit just right with about 15% overscan.I like HD, I used to have directv but it brings so many new problems that are easy for dummys like me to overlook. I wish Dell would ship it and not lie about the shipping date. Has anyone found a place where I can buy the 1.8ghz cpu as an upgrade, the author mentioned he was able to get one?

  18. Where do you set 5.1 or 7.1?

    Also, if you are playing ac3/dolby digital encoded movies in VLC, choose 5.1 in the audio menu of VLC.

  19. Can someone please tell me where exactly I can get the ATI 9.12 driver for Radeon Mobility 4330… on dell download it’s 8.64 only and on I only see a 9.9 version for Windows beta only.

  20. No, that will give me version 9.9 only for win 7 64-bit and installing that doesn’t upgrade my driver to 9.12, but the same version shipped with zino which is 8.64. Is it driverheaven modder i must use to get 9.12?

  21. That’s strange , if I go /windows7/64bit edition/ radeon/ radeon hd 4350 series , I get to a page that let’s me download the 9.12 drivers.

  22. The ATI graphic card that ships with Zino is Mobility 4330, not 4350. However, I’m unable to say if the 4350 driver will work with 4330. Maybe if it modified with Driverheaven Modder first.

  23. I did get my Zino HD 400 today and am very pleased with a few exceptions.Dell has decided not to give out driver cd’s anymore but you can’t reinstall power dvd. I called and after some reasoning they said they would send them. It did come with win 7 but thats not enough.
    At first boot it detected my hd tv a sanyo 32. I did find the right resolution but was a little under native resolution but the screen fit perfectly. The hd4330 with 512 ddr3 ram is very impressive. Some benchmarks I have run blow away my old dell with nvidia 8600xt even at the high resolutions. windows 7 give it a 5.9. I think it could up to 6 with better ati drivers.
    I am not easily impressed but ati has come up with a killer combo in the 780G and the HD4330 and its directx 11. I higly recocomend this escsiaclly for $349. and windows 7

  24. i have a zino with dual core and the 4330 graphics, 4g doesn’t studder on 1080 high def movies.. its a great machine as long as your not a gamer…remember to downlaod the newest flash a beta version
    SINCE DELL IS OUT OF STOCK OF BLU-RAY BURNERs..I WONDER WHAT BRAND AND MODEL WOULD BE AN EASY SWAP???that would save current owners some money… New prices have jumped too…

  25. Pingback: Dell zino HD - decent HTPC setup?? - Page 2 - PC Peripherals | TechEnclave

  26. Jon,

    I have added a Sony Optiarc 5500A BD Rom. It works very well. It costs £125 (Sterling). Mated with a Dell SP2309W. Wicked quality.

  27. I am surfing the ATI site for a driver update…but under the ATI Mobility section it doesn’t list the 4300 series under supported for the driver update of 10.3? Where are you guys finding these downloads?

  28. Thanks for the detailed info on opening the case and replacing parts. I got a Zino with no BD and will be replacing the drive.

    Peter F: Thanks SO much for the instructions on correcting the image scaling problem! Worked perfectly!

  29. Hey,

    Thank you for the review and pictures. I hope you get some freebies for review in the future! You do great work!


  30. Thank you sooo much for the information! I was going nuts thinking my brand new Zino HD didn’t even fill my f*cking screen, and with your info I have finally fixed my problem. Now I need to move on to the next problem, which is eliminating lag on Flash video (e.g., Hulu).

  31. Anyone know whats the best software out right now for ripping blue-ray dvds to your hard drive. I’m looking to put all my blue rays on my zino for easy access. Thanks

  32. I just purchased one fully loaded and was shocked to see it only supports 2.1 sound!! under the sound settings i only have that option. im using HDMI and optical 5.1 surround system. does anyone know what i can do to get real surround?? also the info on the screen not fitting helped. thanks!

  33. The solution to the Black Borders/Not Full screen is the overscan… I believe this is AMD’s fault, if you need to blame someone, the catalyst control centre software is the WORST UI I’ve seen on a graphics card in ages… appalling… I spent hours looking at the screens and not seeing this tiny icon and not realising it would do what it did…

    Anyway, I dunno if the Dell has anything to do with it but the solution is “frustratingly simple”…
    Display > Monitor Settings > THE INSANELY TINY black down arrow next to the SMALL image of your monitor… RIGHT click “Configure…” in my situaion the only thing I could change was “Scaling to 0%”

    Additional problem I had shortly after was that MEDIA CENTER still had the borders. The solution to this was to tell Media Centre that the screen it was displaying on was a MONITOR, not a flatscreen…

    this is kind of the solution better than I can explain:

    I also hate the lag on MCE, but dunno if I would crucify either dell or MS because, the recordings are still okay and although its not super snappy, it seems to be an acceptable balance of functionality and reliabilty…

  34. Dell Zino HD has 5.1 sound indeed even with the 2.1 soundcard…. but is not easy to get this signal to your surround sound amplifier/receiver if you connect your Zino HD with an HDMI cable to your flatscreen….

    The problem is that the Zino HD will only sends this 5.1 sound over the HDMI output when it is connected to a device that is capable of managing 5.1 sound. Otherwise the “HDMI-handshake” will instruct the Dell Zino HD to “downgrade” the HD audio signal to a normal stereo signal. Most of the modern HD flatscreen LED tv’s will tell the Zino to downgrade the stereo signal, even when this tv has a toslink output. Thus, you will only see a stereo signal over the toslink. In a setup like this, you will need an HDMI switch / splitter with audio out. This device will tell the Zino HD to send HD audio over HDMI. Then you can send the HD video signal (1020p) over hdmi to your tv and send the HD audio signal over toslink to your receiver. You also need media playing software like XBMC (open source).

    This works fine in my setup:

    Dell Zino HD, Samsung 3D led tv, bose receiver and octava 5×1 hdmi switch + audio

  35. Hi Wim Wennekes,

    I see a delay when i stream netflix or hulu vidoes in set up where zino is connected to a samsung led tv throug a receiver with hdmi cables…any help is appreciated.

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