Dell could have the smallest computer in the world, but if it’s too slow to do anything, it’s not worthwhile. That’s happily not the issue here. Even though the Zino might be called a laptop in a box, that’s being uncharitable – Dell offers up boatloads of RAM, Blu-ray, a quad-core (if slightly slow) processor, reasonable graphics performance and decent storage space, all for well under $800.
wPrime benchmark test results: (lower is better)
PCMark05 system benchmark test results: (higher is better)
PCMark Vantage system benchmark test results: (higher is better)
CrystalDiskMark storage benchmark results: (higher is better)
|Benchmark||Dell Inspiron Zino HD|
|Sequential Read||101.077 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||97.144 MB/s|
|Random Read 512kB||33.880 MB/s|
|Random Write 512kB||59.356 MB/s|
|Random Read 4kB (QD = 1)||0.405 MB/s|
|Random Write 4kB (QD = 1)||1.180 MB/s|
|Random Read 4kB (QD = 32)||1.080 MB/s|
|Random Write 4kB (QD = 32)||1.098 MB/s|
Software, keyboard and mouse
One of the best parts of the Zino has always been the lack of bloatware installed on the desktop. In today’s world, the third-party “value-added” software that gets shoveled on to these systems rarely does anything but slow it down.
Windows 7 provides a good media center experience, and Dell’s new Stage UI (which we saw at CES – it wasn’t on this review unit) offers an exciting new look. Aside from that, the only extra software on the Zino were some media playback applications – an important consideration since Windows can’t play back Blu-ray discs.
The keyboard and mouse included with the updated Zino are great. The style won’t win any awards, and the mouse is a bit awkward to use, but it’s a fine piece just the same. The problem, however, is that Dell asks for a whopping $75 for the privilege of going wireless – that much money could go a long way toward a reasonable aftermarket system.
There was also a nice little Windows Media Center remote control included in this box. It’s not especially unique to Dell – we saw a Lenovo-branded version at CES, but it’s small and functional.
Power, heat and noise
One of the upsides to using low-powered components in a desktop form factor is just that – they use less power. Less power equals less heat produced, and less heat produced equals less noise generated (since most computers are only noisy insomuch as their fans are noisy).
At boot, the Zino pulled down a peak 57 watts of electricity, while maxing it out only pulled down 67W. Idling at a regular Windows desktop, the little black box drew just 32W. That’s still higher than some small PCs, but it’s much, much better than most.
While small form factor desktops have always been something of a niche market, the offerings have multiplied substantially in number over the past few months, thanks in large parts to very low power processors offered by Intel (and, to a limited extent, AMD). These boxes have always been of dubious use, however, since the CPUs were too weak to do much besides read email and browse the web (as long as you didn’t want to watch HD Flash).
That left the Mac Mini and high-priced offerings from boutique manufacturers, like Shuttle.
The Inspiron Zino HD, however, offered an alternative. Its first incarnation wasn’t able to really sway customers away, but this one might. Useful CPU, useful GPU, lots of storage and the ability to play anything you might need.
As small form factor PCs go, it’s just about perfect. The KB and mouse, though? Come on, Dell, let’s knock a few bucks off.
- Blu-ray drive
- Could be smaller, yet
- $75 for a wireless KB and mouse