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First Look: Dell Inspiron Zino HD
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First Look: Dell Inspiron Zino HD

3:10 /

In the right configuration, Dell's Inspiron Zino HD will fit seamlessly into your living room as a PC-based video source. Due to its uneven handling of even standard-def video, this $468 build isn't quite up to the task. Fortunately, Dell offers the right upgrades to get you to the hallowed ground of PC-based video content--just be prepared to spend a little bit more to get there.

[ Music ] ^M00:00:03 >> Hi. I'm Rich Brown, senior editor for CNET.com. Today we're going to take a look at the Dell Inspiron Zino HD. So as you can see, this is Dell's more or less MacMini competitor. This is a small, relatively affordable desktop pretty much designed to go in the living room. Our review unit comes in at about 470 bucks. For that, you get a standard-def DVD burner, a pretty low-end, Athlon dual core CPU, 320-gig hard drive, three gigs of memory, and an integrated video chip. It does come with Windows 7, and you can configure all kinds of different options. You can go higher in the hard drive. You can add more memory. There is actually a discrete video chip, which will become important, actually, if you want to use this for playing video. Dell has also promised Blu-ray with this system, but if you go to Dell's website right now, you won't find that available as an option. The Zino has actually had a little bit of difficulty in the first few months or so of its life. It hasn't really shipped out in time. Customers have had to wait over a month to get their systems, and the Blu-ray in particular was causing some big delays, so Dell strip that option out for now. It's certainly faster than an Intel atom-based net top, but as soon as you try to get the system to do something even remotely challenging, it will start to choke. Now, you can see Dell has opted for a pretty simple design here. You cannot get inside the case. We tried. A determined hacker could probably figure it out, but most people won't be able to upgrade it. That leaves you with a drive here, a pair of USB ports here, SD card slot here, and a single audio output on the front. Around that you can get a few more options. You get two different audio jacks, Ethernet, USB, a pair of e-SATA inputs, HDMI, power cable, and VGA output. The HDMI at output is actually pretty key for this system sitting in the living room. We plugged it into a 40-inch Samsung TV and had no problem fitting the screen with the proper resolution or outputting audio over the HDMI connection. It definitely will not play downloaded 1080p content, for example, and even on Hulu, it choked a little bit on their standard def stuff. We had better luck with NetFlix, as well as over YouTube and standard DVD player. So it's sort of a mixed bag in this particular configuration anyway. We deftly recommend upgrading to the better graphics chip. We think that will get you a much better and standard depth performance at the very least. For the sake of size comparison, Zino's a little bit bigger than a MacMini. You can see the MacMini here. It's a little bit smaller from side to side and front to back, but otherwise, the Dell really isn't that much bigger. We also like the Dell better as a media system simply because it has an HDMI output. You can stick adapter on the MacMini to get it to display over HDMI, but the Dell makes it much similar having the HDMI port built in. Our review config also came with an 802.11 N wireless card. That makes it a lot easier to plug in the living room without having to run wires all over your house. And the blue plate that you see on top here actually pops right off. It's a customizable option. It costs 15 bucks if you want blue or one of the other colors available on Dell's website. The default option is a plain black plate, and that's no extra charge for that. So as I said, the system has a lot of potential in the living room. It probably needs a few upgrades, particularly in the graphics chip in order to play basic standard def video from all the current, popular sources. And we'd really love to see Blu-ray in here just because it makes so much sense. Again, productivity wise, we deftly don't recommend it for getting any kind of serious work done, but it's fast enough that it will handle the basic tasks from day to day that you might want to do from your couch. So I'm Rich Brown. This is the Dell Inspiron Zino HD. ^M00:03:08 [ Music ]

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