Due to updates, over time, that have been made to the site and the age of this article, this post may not display correctly. In particular images may be missing or product reviews display incorrectly.

If this is the case and you'd particularly like me to fix it, then please reach out to me on Twitter.

After managing to break my home PC (note – don’t mess around with graphics cards when you still have power to your PC!) I found myself suddenly in the market for a new one. I did have a large tower system (an EZ Cool case that looks remarkable like an Apple G5 server, combined with the innards of a Mesh PC) but used little of its bulk, with the exception of two DVD writers. I therefore decided to look for something more discrete – I rarely use my PC for heavy processing tasks, so something a little less powerful would be fine.

In the end I settled on the Dell Zino HD. Obviously inspired by the Apple Mac Mini, this is a dinky plastic box containing a reasonably powerful AMD dual-core processor.

There are 2 base models to choose from, each available as the base unit only or with a monitor. I originally costed the lower end model, adding various extras that I needed, but I found that because the higher end model already had many of these extras it wasn’t much more. Indeed, I found that for only £70 more I would get a more powerful graphics card, 2GB more memory, a wireless card and a Blu-ray player. Well worth the extra money!

So, that full spec includes 6GB memory, Athlon 6850e processor, Radeon HD 4330 graphics, 1TB hard drive. All of this runs the 64-bit version of Windows 7.

It turned up within a matter of days and the box (which also contains a wireless mouse and keyboard) could be easily carried in one hand (it has a carry handle on the top of the box!). As I showed it off at work, people were truly amazed by its compact dimensions – just 8 by 8 inches.

The lid is replaceable and is available in a number of different colours (mine is red!). The power button resides on the top. On the front is the DVD/Blu-Ray player, which is a laptop style version, 2 USB ports, SD card reader and headphone socket.

On the rear is 2 further USB ports, 2 eSata ports, VGA, HDMI, line out, microphone socket, Gigabit Ethernet, Kensington lock socket and a power connector. No PSU is built in – instead this uses an external laptop “brick”.

As I mentioned earlier, the Zino comes with a wireless keyboard and mouse (both operating from a single wireless USB dongle). The mouse has a magnetic top, allowing you to easily lift it off and replace the batteries. It works well and I continue to use it. The keyboard, however, is a different matter – I found that keys had to be pressed quite firmly and, even then, I was often missing out keystrokes. It’s also quite noisy as well. In the end, using another USB port, I’ve put it in the wired Microsoft keyboard that I bought only a few months ago.

And USB ports are a concern, as it sports just 4 in total (with 2 on the front). But if that’s the worst problem I can find (and it is) that’s not too bad – a Belkin 7 port hub has sorted that out!

Pre-installed trial software was minimal – just McAfee needed uninstalling. Once done, I used the included Dell software to make an image of the build.

I’ve not used Windows 7 before (or Vista), so there’s been a bit of a learning curve for that. I was worried about hardware compatibility with W7 but, as it turned out, the only casualty was my webcam – it was top-of-the-range at the time, but it was quite a while ago and Logitech stopped producing drivers for it after XP. Printer, scanner, etc, all work happily. So, I’m now in the market for a webcam!

My monitor only has a VGA and DVI connector, so I purchased an HDMI to DVI lead from eBuyer (which cost only a few pounds) – this works a treat, but Blu-ray movies take exception to it (DRM is not present on DVI, unlike HDMI). It’s not my intention so sit and watch movies with it anyway, so it’s not a concern – however, when I buy a new monitor I will look out for one with HDMI.

I also ordered from eBuyer a SATA dock – I simply dropped my old hard drive into this and connected it to my Dell using a supplied USB cable – I was then able to transfer all my files over. Quick tip – Windows 7 took exception to me accessing the drive in the dock and just hung when trying to access certain folders. I found turning off UAC resolved this.

One last Windows 7 tip – I had problems sharing files between Win7 and WinXP. It turns out the Homegroup feature of Win7 isn’t compatible, so I turned that off and set up sharing “the old fashioned way”.

[review]Heartily recommended – small, very quiet and rather powerful for its diminutive size.[/review]
If you liked this, you should try The Big Tech Question, which includes articles written by myself.

The Big Tech Question delivers straight answers to the biggest questions in tech. And some questions nobody really wanted the answers to…