Inspiron Zino HD

2009-December-21st

With the death of tacgnol, one of the things I’m keeping my eyes on is the space of the computer industry I like to call “incredibly tiny desktop computers.” The reasons for this are two-fold. First of all, I’m limited on the amount of space I can use by the fact that I live in a dorm room. Secondly, most of the machines in this category are either inexpensive, or are at the very least low enough power that the added cost makes it worthwhile, compared to a larger machine such as flatdell.

The Inspiron Zino HD is an interesting machine in this category for a few reasons. The first of these is that it has a real processor. No offense to the Intel Atom, but it is maybe not the strongest of processor offerings these days, especially when the difference between a machine with a single-core Atom (such as the Acer AspireRevo for $200) and a machine with a purportedly faster processor such as an AMD Athlon-of-some-sort is just $50, then I’m on board with the faster processor.

There are a few other nice things about the Zino HD, which itself starts at $50 as compared with most Atom-powered machines, such as the fact that it uses little if any additional electricity, houses a full-sized 3.5-inch SATA disk, and can be configured with up to 8GB of memory. It also has an optical drive built in, and gigabit Ethernet as well as either wireless or an empty MiniPCIe slot make for a few interesting possibilities. It has also got a media reader and a few eSATA ports, making some other interesting things possible.

Because I expect that when it comes to doing one thing at a time, the Zino HD is most likely no slouch, I expect that it would make a rather handy multimedia computer (a replacement for flatdell/hotbox as the machine hooked up to the television, for example). I see no reason it would be unable to do hulu/youtube et al fairly well, and I even bet that with a USB TV tuner, it could record tv shows that aren’t available on hulu, or just generally be awesome.


The main competition for the Zino HD, in terms of things I would purchase, is other Dell machines (some available through their outlet page) such as the Studio Hybrid, the ultra small form factor OptiPlex machines, and of course, the Mac Mini.

The Mac mini starts out at about $580, although for the price it has more USB ports, a slicker design, it uses less power, it has a far faster processor and a far superior graphics subsystem, and it already includes wireless. Plus, it’s a Mac, and just as a secondary desktop computer, that’s very valuable because it means instead of having a computer that can run Windows and Linux each marginally, I have a computer that can run Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, each quite well.

The ultra small form factor OptiPlex 780 starts just under double the price of the Zino HD, but has a better upgrade path in front of it, in terms of available processors and memory, in addition to packing the power supply inside the main unit, unlike the mini which includes a bulky brick, and the Zino HD which looks to use the same power supply as some of Dell’s newer consumer laptops.

Ultimately, because Flatdell and Hotbox are each doing their thing, there’s no real need for me right now to have something like the Zino HD. Although it’s definitely on the list of machines to look at in case I need to migrate to a lower power server or come up with another machine to hook up to a spare monitor or television I may or may not have hanging around.