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Dell's aims Inspiron Zino HD at the living room

Dell's announces new Inspiron Zino HD living room PC.

When we first saw Dell's new Inspiron Zino HD this summer, our thought was that when Dell brought this thing to market it would be introducing the affordable living room PC of our dreams. It's small, it's cheap, it has HDMI, and it supports Blu-ray and 802.11n Wi-Fi. What else could you want in a self-contained little Windows box to serve up media to your TV? We're not without questions (how well will the default ATI graphics and low-power AMD CPU handle Blu-ray playback, for example?), but on paper, the Inspiron Zino HD the Dell announced this morning seems to retain most of that promise we saw a few months back.

Dell's new Inspiron Zino HD offers multiple color choices. Dell

The Inspiron Zino HD starts at $229, which nets you a single-core 1.6GHz AMD Athlon 2650e CPU, a DVD burner, 2GB of RAM, wired networking, a DVD burner, and a 250GB hard drive. It's not much, but that's a better deal than the $199 Acer Revo we reviewed a few weeks ago because of the Dell's larger hard drive and a DVD burner.

And while these low-cost PCs are all the rage these days, we're more excited by the Zino's possibilities after a few key upgrades. Bump the CPU up to the dual-core Athlon X2 3250e, upgrade the RAM to 4GB, add 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and a Blu-ray drive and the price climbs to a still-reasonable $498. A TV tuner option is coming at some unspecified time in the future.

You get two USB 2.0 jacks, an optical drive, and an SD Card reader on the front of the Zino. Dell

You wouldn't want to use such a spec for editing movies or playing games, for that we'd recommend starting with Gateway's SX2800-01 and adding a low-profile 3D card. You'd probably also run out of storage space with the Zino's 250GB default hard drive sooner than you'd like. But on a home network with another PC hosting the bulk of your media, a $500 or so Inspiron Zino HD would likely meet all of your prerecorded media consumption needs.

Among other ports, the back of the Inspiron Zino HD has both HDMI and VGA video outs, as well as a pair of eSATA ports. Dell

Dell offers a few color and design options for the Inspiron Zino HD, and all but Piano Black cost an extra $10. According to Dell's Web site, order's placed today will ship by November 26.