The problem with computers is that they're just so big. If, like us, you enjoy channelling all your media through one machine, you've probably felt some frustration when trying to fit your laptop underneath the TV, or disguise that huge desktop tower behind a tastefully placed indoor fern. If you're struggling for space, the Dell Inspiron Zino HD 410 might be the computer for you.
It'll set you back somewhere between £350 and £650 depending on your configuration (ours cost £520), but is it worth shelling out for?
Everybody walk the Zinosaur
We've had a look at an older Zino HD before, and we were unimpressed, finding you'd probably have to splash out on better specs to get decent performance with high-definition video. But, with some new components, we're hopeful that the 410 can do a better job. As with its predecessor, you can more or less configure this PC however you want in the online store, adding or taking away pieces of hardware to suit your budget.
You definitely won't have any trouble fitting the 410 into your home-media set-up, if that's your goal. It's really small, at just 197 by 89 by 197mm. It weighs only 1.6kg, so, in theory, you could lug it around in a bag, although, in practice, you probably won't want to do that too often.
The top of the 410 sports a metallic effect -- ours was a tasteful silver -- that looks quite attractive. The rest of the body is standard glossy black. The 410 isn't particularly stunning compared to tiny computers like the Apple Mac mini, but it's definitely not ugly. Most of the ports are stuffed around the back, so only the good-looking parts face forwards.
A snifter of port
Pleasingly, there are plenty of ports on the back. You'll find such gems as two eSATA ports, an HDMI port, a VGA out, an Ethernet jack, an S/PDIF connection, 3.5mm sockets for headphones and a mic, line out, four USB ports and a multi-format card reader. There's a Blu-ray player on some models, although, if you want to cut costs, cheaper models with a DVD rewritable drive are available too.
A wireless mouse and keyboard are bundled with the 410. The mouse is comfortable enough, and the keyboard has some handy media keys and shortcuts along the top, along with a dial for controlling the volume. Delightful.
We would say, though, that the keyboard could be slightly more compact. It would've been good if it were small enough to fit on your lap while you were sat on the sofa, especially if you're intending to use the 410 as a media PC. Still, both the keyboard and mouse are controlled wirelessly via a single USB stick, which will save you a precious USB port.
Our 410 review sample packed a triple-core AMD Phenom II X3 P840 CPU, clocked at 1.9GHz, backed up by 4GB of RAM and an ATI Radeon HD 5450 GPU. When we ran the PCMark05 benchmark test, this petite PC mustered an impressive score of 5,695, so you can expect it to handle a tonne of HD video without breaking a sweat. Indeed, during our tests, our hi-def video played very smoothly.
When we ran the 3DMark06 benchmark test, the 410 scored a reasonable 3,494. That's okay, and will make the 410 a decent choice for anyone who enjoys a spot of non-cutting-edge gaming, but it's hardly incredible. Such a score is, however, roughly in line with what we'd expect for £520.
Indeed, the PC's performance is generally as you'd expect for the money. It's not amazing, but the 410 will be fine for playing videos, music and other media. You'll get better performance if you pay for a higher-end model, and worse performance if you opt for cheaper components.
The 410 will do an equally satisfactory job if you just want a little PC, rather than a media hub. Just make sure the port selection includes everything you're after before buying. Also note that the PC runs Windows 7 Home Premium.
The tiny Dell Inspiron Zino HD 410 isn't exactly ambitious -- it merely aims to offer enough power to handle most media, in a compact form factor. To its credit, it does both these things with aplomb. Overall, we think it's a cool little machine. If you're more Mac than PC, though, check out the media-loving Mac mini before parting ways with your cash.
Edited by Charles Kloet