Dell Inspiron Zino HD

My old IBM-compatible clone PC had gone bonkers last month so it's about time I go shopping for a new computer again. It's not often really that I go shopping around for computers. Apart from the fact that they are expensive, I usually salvage computer parts thrown away by my clients or their companies and build my own PC from scratch.

This time around however, I can actually afford to buy a new one (hey!). I only got 2 models in mind, the cool Mac Mini or this square box from Dell. Since the Mac Mini is still rather expensive to me at RM1,899, I had to settle for the Inspiron Zino HD instead which costs half of the cheapest Mac out there.

Compared to the Mac Mini, the Zino is quite thick, dimension-wise. The 8 by 8 inch compact PC can easily fit 2 regular CD-ROM drives stacked together. Plus, the DVD-drive is still tray loading instead of a slot loading.

Specifications: the Zino is powered by a decent AMD Athlon II P360 Dual-core processor which is comparable to a standard Core 2 Duo Intel processor. RAM is only 2GB DDR3 while the hard drive is standard 320GB 7200RPM SATA. Altogether it has 4 USB 2.0 ports, 2 up front and 2 at the back. It also comes with 2 eSATA ports which I find totally unnecessary because whoever uses eSATA anymore today? Other than that, the remaining ports are pretty standard like VGA, Ethernet and 4 in 1 card reader. The HDMI port however makes the Zino an ideal HTPC you know, to watch and stream movies to your living room TV. Just add Boxee or XBMC and you're good to go.

The top case is easily opened with one click and after unscrewing a couple of screws, you can effortlessly change the hard drive or RAM by yourself. The default operating system is Windows 7 Home Basic 64 bit which has some of the standard features in Windows 7 (like Aero & remote desktop) stripped off. But for home use, I think it's still acceptable. Of course I'm sure you geeks out there can change that in an hour. While your at it, maybe you can turn it into a Hackintosh as well although I heard the network or sound won't work with this one.

Here's a tip: order a different color for your Zino lid and you'll get the default black top for free! To purchase the Zino, you can only do it online at Dell's official website. As far as I know, you can't get this one from any regular brick and mortar shop, including Low Yat Plaza or the sole Dell store at Mid Valley. Maybe that's how they keep the price down - direct selling. Anyhow, the Zino starts from only RM999 up to RM2,100 depending on specs and accessories. If you buy this computer now, they'll throw in a free keyboard and mouse as well (how thoughtful). And no, they don't provide a monitor with this PC. Have to get your own.

Some of the main reasons I bought this particular model from Dell is the price, size and power consumption. I use the computer mainly in our master bedroom back home so since the Zino is so small, I can easily hide it on top of my drawer and the machine only uses 75 watts of power which is quite energy efficient. The Zino is also very quiet too and performance-wise, I think it's comparable to any standard entry-level PCs out there. To get yourself one, head on to Dell's website. Shipping time is about 4 days after confirmed order.