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Dell Inspiron Zino HD 410 HTPC Review

With the set-top box and Internet-connected televisions dominating the home theater space as of late, dedicated home theater PCs have become less useful from the standpoint of the mainstream user.  However, there’s still a niche space for those looking for high-end performance and small form factor in the home theater, something that a simple set-top box struggles with.

The custom HTPC market has been dwindling dueto the rise of small computers like the Mac Mini or, in this case, the Dell Zino.  The first iteration of the Zino (released in early 2010) was woefully underpowered for playing high-definition media and was panned by critics due to stuttering 1080p playback as well as a lack of a Blu-ray option.  Dall must have taken that criticism to heart with the revision of the hardware (the 410), the model that’s the focal point of this review.  


The form factor of the Dell Zino HD is mostly unchanged from the first model.  The small size of the HTPC is about 8 by 8 inches and just under 4 inches in height.  You can get interchangeable colors for the top of the unit, but our review unit came in piano black.  The finish of the Zino HD is very sleek and attracts a variety of fingerprints.  On the front of the unit, you will find the physical media drive (Blu-ray in our unit), a 3.5mm headphones jack, 2 USB 2.0 ports, the infra-red receiver for your remote and a 4 in 1 card reader for media from a digital camera or similar device.  The concept of the Zino is to appear as minimalist as possible and this unit blends in fairly seamlessly with a typical home theater setup.

Dell zino back


On the back of the unit, you will find the main panel for connections, similar to any typical PC.  There is a HDMI 1.3 and VGA port for your choices on video, S/PDIF optical out and 3.5mm audio out for your choice on audio as well as Gigabit LAN, 2 more USB ports, the main exhaust fan, the power connection, the release for the top panel (in case of changing colors and 2 e-SATA ports.  For those that like to tinker with their PC, the top panel opens up the PC and you can fiddle with the electronics inside.  It’s a fairly straightforward connection panel and more people will likely rely on HDMI to output their Audio / Video into their main receiver, assuming this is going into their main home theater.  

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