HTPC on a budget - Dell Zino HD Best Choice?

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HTPC on a budget - Dell Zino HD Best Choice?

Postposted on Sun Mar 14, 2010 12:46 am

We're moving to a new home in a month and are going to try to leave Cable TV behind. Looking for 2 HTPCs: one for the master bedroom and one for the family room. Is the Dell Zino HD the most economical option? We are looking in that $300-$400 CAD price range and besides the Atom based options, this one seems the most logical.

Anyone have experience with the Dell?
Acer AO521, Asus EEE2G, and an e6300 (EP45-DS3L, 4GB Corsair, 320GB 7200.10, EVGA GT250, Corsair VX450W and Samsung 2043BW)
iamajai
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Re: HTPC on a budget - Dell Zino HD Best Choice?

Postposted on Sun Mar 14, 2010 2:50 am

Is that $300-400CAD for both, or for one? If its for one...I think you could do better. If its for both, I'm unsure maybe you could match them.
StuG
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Re: HTPC on a budget - Dell Zino HD Best Choice?

Postposted on Sun Mar 14, 2010 3:01 am

Refurbed/Scratch&Dent Zinos from the Dell site go for as low a $200 or so. Unfortunately, the first revision of Zino's had a bad reputation for overheating. Might want to stick with the new ones just to ensure you get a later revision.
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Re: HTPC on a budget - Dell Zino HD Best Choice?

Postposted on Sun Mar 14, 2010 4:01 am

You're not going to get a Zino with the BluRay drive (which also requires the discrete 4330 graphics card) and hit that price point unless you wait for a particularly good sale at Dell (which is possible -- they're doing their "Days of Deals" right now, and the last time they did that I picked up a Zino at a steep discount).

The form factor is fantastic, and hard to match with DIY components even with an ITX mobo and case (particularly when you factor in the full size HD and the card reader). One potential drawback to the Zino for HTPC purposes: the audio outputs are just 2 channel stereo (RCA jacks). There's no separate digital out, or analog surround/center/sub. That shouldn't be a problem for most people because the HDMI output will carry the audio, but if you're not plugging into an HDMI-equipped receiver or want to do something unusual with the audio you're out of luck.
bdwilcox wrote:Unfortunately, the first revision of Zino's had a bad reputation for overheating. Might want to stick with the new ones just to ensure you get a later revision.
Interesting. Do you have a link with more details? The one I got seems to run cool enough (22°C to 32° idle, 45°C to 55° while busy though I haven't stress-tested it). One core always seems to be 10 degrees higher than the other, which is strange but could just be sensor calibration: the sensor on the hard drive tends to agree with the lower core reading. I've never heard the cooling fan. But I very well may have got the later revision: I ordered it back at the beginning of December, but they didn't ship it until after a long delay (some of which they told me about when I ordered, and some of which went week to week with no progress on the order for quite a while). A revision would certainly explain that.
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Re: HTPC on a budget - Dell Zino HD Best Choice?

Postposted on Sun Mar 14, 2010 5:49 am

Ubergerbil: Sounds like you have the dual core Zino...do you think the single core will adequately run flash video at 1080P?
Acer AO521, Asus EEE2G, and an e6300 (EP45-DS3L, 4GB Corsair, 320GB 7200.10, EVGA GT250, Corsair VX450W and Samsung 2043BW)
iamajai
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Re: HTPC on a budget - Dell Zino HD Best Choice?

Postposted on Sun Mar 14, 2010 11:56 am

Yeah, the Zino I got was destined to be a general-purpose machine for my elderly mother (ie email/browser/Word + very simple digital photo handling), So no BluRay, but the dual-core seemed prudent.
iamajai wrote:Ubergerbil: Sounds like you have the dual core Zino...do you think the single core will adequately run flash video at 1080P?
You'd think so, but Flash is ridiculously more CPU-intensive for reasons I don't think even Adobe can explain (I'd love to hear them try, but I suspect if they actually could they'd be able to fix it). Raw video shouldn't be a problem, but wrapped in Flash I'd be a bit worried. Take a look at Anand's review (see page 3). But that's with the 10.x beta of Flash, and perhaps as Adobe improves their GPU offloading (and perhaps as AMD revises the graphics drivers) the IGP can help out more -- there's some links that suggest this in the comments thread for that article.

Or maybe Adobe will just fix Flash to not be such a pig, but I'm not holding my breath.
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Re: HTPC on a budget - Dell Zino HD Best Choice?

Postposted on Sun Mar 14, 2010 3:00 pm

I have an early dual-core Zino with 4330. It's a decent little system altogether but the build quality is by far lower than the Mac Minis I've taken apart. Of course after you assemble it once it doesn't really matter (it's not like it will just fall apart sitting on the shelf) but still worth a mention. The ability to use desktop drives is a nice one and I also like the ease of taking it apart versus the same Mini. Didn't notice any heat issues so far but it's my second PC so I don't use it as often.
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