Dell Inspiron Zino HD review

Price when reviewed

Dell’s recent Adamo ultraportables have shown the company is more than capable of innovation, and it’s long been offering custom lid designs on the Studio range of laptops, too. Now Dell has seen fit to extend that creativity to a new line of mini PCs, starting with the undeniably cute Inspiron Zino HD.

Vital to the appeal of the Zino HD is the design of the chassis. It’s not unusual in shape, about the size of a lunch box, but the customisable finishes (the Red Swirl on our sample added £25 exc VAT to the price) give it a tailored feel that you won’t get from a generic nettop. The lid pops off at the touch of a button on the rear, although it’s primarily there for switching designs – you’ll have difficulty accessing the motherboard without a screwdriver and a lot of patience.

Dell Inspiron Zino HD

What you do get is a neat and tidy interior, with a 1TB desktop 3.5in hard disk pressed beneath a spring-loaded DVD writer. Dell plans to offer an upgrade to a Blu-ray reader on its website soon; for now you’ll have to order by phone to add one. All other customisations can be easily specified when ordering online, though, so you can easily match your order to this review system.

The ports and connections are sensibly distributed, with two USB ports on the front, alongside an SD card slot and a 3.5mm headphone output. On the rear sit a further four USB ports, one of which doubles up as an eSATA port, next to Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI and D-SUB outputs. Our review sample came with an 802.11n wireless LAN card inside, but again that’s customisable.

It’s powered by an energy-efficient, low-power AMD Athlon X2 3250e. It’s a dual-core part, sitting in a performance vacuum somewhere between the Intel Atom and proper desktop chips such as the Pentium Dual-Core. To get the most out of it, Dell pairs it with 4GB of DDR2 memory, which helped the Zino to a score of 0.62 in our benchmarks.

That’s hardly a mainstream level of performance – you’ll struggle to run intensive tasks such as video-editing smoothly – but it’s a good 50% more power than you’ll squeeze from an Atom nettop, which makes a big difference at this low level. Dell’s choice of a power-efficient processor also ensures the Zino HD runs quietly.

Dell has also opted for a discrete graphics chip to make the Zino as versatile as possible. ATI’s Mobility Radeon HD 4330 is at the low end of the range, but it handles video decoding smoothly right up to 1080p H.264, making this a potential media system. We also tried our gaming tests with low expectations, but an average of 40fps in our 1,024 x 768 Low quality Crysis benchmark was encouraging. Upping that to 1,280 x 1,024 and Medium settings dropped the framerate to 13fps but there’s a decent amount of gaming leeway there if you’re happy to stick to slightly less demanding titles.

Dell Inspiron Zino HD

A standard wireless Dell keyboard and mouse also come in the box, along with their dongle which will take up one of your USB ports. They’re sleek and comfortable, and feature Dell’s useful media controls as well as a neat rotary control for quick playback navigation.

The Zino HD is undoubtedly a sleek and desirable system, then, but note that price. You’re understandably paying a premium for the compact design, but we’re used to seeing nettops at £250 or lower. While it can be argued the Dell is significantly more than a nettop, given its relatively weak benchmark performance it’s hard to argue that it’s worth nearly twice as much.

We’d stick with the HD 4330 graphics if you intend to decode any HD video, but for a more affordable specification you could opt for 3GB of RAM, a 500GB hard disk and do without the wireless card to get the price down to a more palatable £332 exc VAT.

Then it’s just a question of needs: the Zino is twice as fast as the Acer Aspire Revo R3600, but that currently sells for around £190 exc VAT. Then there’s a rival such as the Mesh Cute X215 HD, which crams a much faster Athlon II into a similarly petite (but noisier) chassis, that can now be had for under £300 exc VAT.

The Dell Zino HD certainly betters both for design, so if that’s important to you it will fit your desk nicely, but as an overall package the Zino simply doesn’t offer enough to justify its high price.


Warranty1yr collect and return

Basic specifications

Total hard disk capacity1,000
RAM capacity4.00GB
Screen sizeN/A


CPU familyAMD Athlon
CPU nominal frequency1.50GHz
CPU overclocked frequencyN/A
Processor socketAM2


Motherboard chipsetAMD 780G


Memory typeDDR2
Memory sockets free0
Memory sockets total2

Graphics card

Graphics cardATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330
Multiple SLI/CrossFire cards?no
3D performance settingLow
Graphics chipsetATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330
Graphics card RAM512MB
DVI-I outputs0
HDMI outputs1
VGA (D-SUB) outputs1
DisplayPort outputs0
Number of graphics cards1

Hard disk

Hard diskSeagate Barracuda 7200.12
Hard disk usable capacity912GB
Internal disk interfaceSATA/300
Spindle speed7,200RPM
Cache size32MB
Hard disk 2 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 2 nominal capacityN/A
Hard disk 2 formatted capacityN/A
Hard disk 2 spindle speedN/A
Hard disk 2 cache sizeN/A
Hard disk 3 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 3 nominal capacityN/A
Hard disk 4 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 4 nominal capacityN/A


Optical driveHL-DT-ST BDDVDRW CT10N
Optical disc technologyBlu-ray reader
Optical disk 2 make and modelN/A
Optical disk 3 make and modelN/A


Monitor make and modelNone
Resolution screen horizontalN/A
Resolution screen verticalN/A
ResolutionN/A x N/A
Pixel response timeN/A
Contrast ratioN/A
Screen brightnessN/A
DVI inputsN/A
HDMI inputsN/A
VGA inputsN/A
DisplayPort inputsN/A

Additional Peripherals

Speaker typeN/A
Sound cardATI HD Audio


Dimensions197 x 197 x 86mm (WDH)

Free drive bays

Free front panel 5.25in bays0

Rear ports

USB ports (downstream)6
eSATA ports1
PS/2 mouse portno
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports0
3.5mm audio jacks3

Front ports

Front panel USB ports2
Front panel memory card readeryes

Mouse & Keyboard

Mouse and keyboardDell wireless mouse and keyboard

Operating system and software

OS familyWindows 7

Performance tests

Overall application benchmark score0.62
Office application benchmark score0.55
2D graphics application benchmark score0.78
Encoding application benchmark score0.60
Multitasking application benchmark score0.54
3D performance (crysis) low settings40fps
3D performance settingLow

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