Small-form-factor Zino HD gets quad-core, Blu-ray upgrades

For close to a year, Dell's Zino HD has offered a colorful, AMD-based alternative to Apple's Mac Mini. Now there's a fresh version that can be built up with a Blu-ray drive, quad-core CPU, and discrete Radeon HD graphics. Oh my.

The new Zino shares the same 7.8" x 7.8" x 3.4" footprint as its predecessor, but the glossy plastic top panel of the original has been replaced with what looks like brushed metal. The selection of available colors has also been pared down from a veritable rainbow to just four: black, silver, red, and blue. Matching the system to a room's color palette will cost you, though; color options other than black are a $39 upgrade.

Base Zino HD configurations now start at $299, which gets you an Athlon II V140 processor clocked at 2.3GHz, Radeon HD 4250 integrated graphics, plus a 250GB hard drive, 2GB of RAM, DVD burner, keyboard and mouse, and Windows 7 Home Premium x64. The Zino can also be hopped up with a Phenom II X4 P940 running at 1.7GHz, an MXM-based Radeon HD 5450 GPU, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and an optical drive that can read Blu-ray discs and burn DVDs. Total cost? $825 after an instant discount of over $300.

The Zino is taller than Apple's current selection of Mac Minis, but it has a similar footprint, and you get a lot more hardware for your money. Shocking, I know. What's perhaps more surprising is the fact that the base configuration is only a little more expensive than Zotac's CULV-based Zbox, which is sold without an optical drive, hard drive, memory, or operating system.

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