The appearance of nettops around 2008 kick started the small form factor HTPC craze. Until that point of time, SFF HTPCs were restricted to the DIY crowd. However, the anemic nature of the Atom platform on which most nettops were based was a downer for many. The ION platform led to the appearance of a slew of SFF HTPCs which garnered widespread market acceptance. However, the core Atom processor left many people still disappointed.

A couple of years back, mobile CPUs from both AMD and Intel began to achieve the required performance within approximately the same power envelop as the processors being used in the nettops. Acer took the plunge first, introducing the Acer X1200 mini-PC in 2008, but it wasn't in the mini-ITX form factor.

Dell was, in fact, the first to introduce a mini-ITX SFF HTPC build with their first generation Zino 400 HD HTPC. The mobile CPUs, combined with the AMD chipset having an integrate GPU (3200) / option of a discrete 4330 mGPU created a lot of interest amongst the HTPC enthusiasts. Despite being well received, the units did have problem with poor thermal design.

Between the appearance of the Zino 400 and the Zino 410 that we are currently reviewing, companies like ASRock caught on to the trend and started offering mini-ITX SFF HTPCs with varying degrees of capability. Dell seems to be committed to AMD for their SFF HTPC solution, and the approach they have taken for the Zino 410 is the same as the one for the Zino 400. The Zino 410 is offered in various configurations, and users can pick and choose components as they see fit.

Let us take a look at the configuration of the review unit sent to us by Dell:

Dell Zino 410 HD HTPC Specifications
Processor AMD Phenom II X4 P940
(4x1.70GHz, 45nm, 2MB L2, 25W)
Chipset AMD M880G + SB820
Memory 1x4GB + 1x2GB DDR3-1333 (Max 8GB)
Graphics ATI Mobility 5450 1GB DDR3
80 SPs, 675/675/800 MHz Core/Shader/RAM clocks
Hard Drive(s) 750GB 7200RPM 3.5" HDD
(Western Digital Caviar Black WD7501AAES)
Optical Drive Blu-ray/DVDRW Combo
Networking Gigabit Ethernet
802.11n (Dell WLAN 1520)
Audio Microphone and headphone/speaker jacks
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming(SPDIF/HDMI)
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Extras THX TruStudio Pro Audio Certification
Interchangeable colour lid
IR receiver and MCE remote
Wireless Keyboard / Mouse
Pricing Starting Price: $300
Price as configured: $775

Dell maxed out their Zino 410 HD specifications in the review unit. It comes in at $775, and lies in between the ASRock Core 100 and the ASRock Vision 3D that we had reviewed earlier.

Do the capabilities of the system fall in between the two? Is the Dell system worth the cost? Before we get into the details, let us take a look at the unboxing impressions.

Unboxing Impressions
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  • silverblue - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    ...would having two differently-sized SO-DIMMs have on system performance?

    I'd be tempted to take replace that 4GB module with a 2GB one just to see what happens. 6GB of RAM just doesn't compute. :)

    We seem to be getting a decent number of Dell-AMD systems lately... I only hope they take up Brazos with the same level of enthusiasm, because even if it did result in a small drop in performance, this review would've been largely the same in terms of gaming and video playback/quality, albeit with a much smaller footprint. Also, in that scenario, dual channel wouldn't matter as Fusion doesn't support it.
  • fabarati - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    If AMD has anything like Intels asynchronous dual channel, the first 4 GB will perform like dual channel, whilst the remaining 2 GB will perform like single channel.
  • Taft12 - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    Dual-channel memory was a scam from the beginning that has somehow survived to this day to make PC buyers think they needed to buy more memory than needed.

    Have you seen the benchmarks? ~1-2% benefit AT MOST for anything that's not a synthetic memory bandwidth test, regardless of platform.
  • fabarati - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    Didn't it help back in the P4 and/or P-M days? And how did it do in early Athlon 64 days?

    But yeah, Core Duo and newer doesn't really benefit from Dual channel, one
  • silverblue - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    Theoretically, dual channel would help APUs as they're bandwidth-limited.

    I suppose you're right about standard usage though, even raising memory clocks doesn't make for a sizeable performance advantage.
  • asmoma - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    Starcraft 2 is not a synthetic memory test, and it does benefit from going from 2 to three channels, just read some performance reviews of Starcraft 2.
  • DanNeely - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    The einstien@home applications benefitted from a 3rd channel on i7 quad cores; and the 2nd channel on C2 quads as well; high performance server farms/clusters/super computers are a significant segment of the market. On the i7-quad, E@H had a 66% speedup from the 2nd channel, and a 5% gain from the 3rd. Sandybridge gave a similar speedup from the 2nd channel. I can't find the thread with the C2Quad results, but IIRC they were a 10-25% speedup.

    I don't have benchmarks handy, but I suspect a heavily loaded DB server would also benefit from the extra memory bandwidth because the queries would result in a psudorandom memory access pattern that would limit the ability of the cache controller to prefetch most of the data being requested.
  • jeremyshaw - Friday, March 4, 2011 - link

    that actually had to do with uncore clocks, not memory channels.
  • vailr - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    How would a Mac Mini compare?
    Could a Mac Mini be retrofitted with a Blu-Ray drive (since Blu-Ray is available factory installed) and then run as a Windows HTPC?
  • tipoo - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    Why on earth would you buy a Mini to run as a Windows HTPC? You'd pay more for less performance.

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