The idea behind Dell’s Zino HD 410 – a PC that’s attached to your TV – has been round for years. The first flurry of lounge-based PCs appeared when Microsoft launched Windows XP Media Center version in 2002. The Media Center side of things was (and still is) impressive – but most of the home-theatre PCs it ran on were ugly, bulky and not the kind of thing you’d want sitting in your livign room.
A new breed of lounge PC
The Zino HD 410 represents a new breed of lounge-based computer, with a stylish and compact design that won’t demand much space in your TV cabinet. At the front of the device you’ll find two USB ports, a headphone socket and an SD card reader. If you’ve a collection of Blu-ray movies, you’ll be pleased to hear there’s also an integrated Blu-ray drive. This is a laptop-style slim drive, so the tray isn’t motorised.
A further collection of ports sits at the rear. Video output is catered for by both HDMI and VGA connections, while two further USB ports are joined by a pair of eSATA ports for hooking up external high-speed storage drives. Quite why Dell has opted to include two eSATA ports is beyond us. Other sockets include analogue audio in/out, optical audio out and a Lan port for wired networking. 802.11n wireless is also built-in.
You get a choice of configurations for the machine’s internal components. Our £529 review sample featured a triple-core AMD Phenom II X3 P840 processor, 4GB of DDR3 memory, ATI Radeon HD 5450 graphics and a 750GB hard drive. All pretty powerful stuff – especially considering this is a PC design primarily for media playback. Should you want something more conservative, cheaper models that lack, among other things, the Blu-ray drive are available and start at just £300.
Given the Zino HD 410′s fast processor, it’s no surprise that the pre-installed Windows 7 Home Premium ticked along smoothly. If you want to task the Zino HD 410 with something a little more strenuous than media playback, it’ll certainly be able to cope. We managed a bit of video editing along with some light gaming. Don’t expect too much in terms of game play, though – low detail settings are the order of the day here.
There’s no monitor included in the price, but Dell does throw in a wireless keyboard and mouse. Both Dell-branded, these aren’t anything special and we would have preferred a smaller, media-style keyboard with an integrated trackpad.
Needless to say, with such a small chassis there’s very little breathing room inside. The fact Dell has gone for a 3.5in hard disk with a high spin speed of 7,500rpm helps to push up the temperature, but a fan at the rear does a good job of belting out the hot air. As with any media PC, quiet running is essential, and we’re pleased to report that the fan on the Zino HD 410 can barely be heard.
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Alternatively, you could save even more money and opt for a media streamer instead, such as the Q-waves QuickLink HD or Asus O! Play Air HDP-R3. Available for a fraction of the price of the Zino HD 410, these devices will do an equally good job of getting movies, music and more on your TV. Take this route, however, and you'll lose out on the additional features afforded by a fully-fledged Windows PC such as this.