At the Zino HD’s front we have a tray-loading slimline Blu-ray drive, though the base model comes with a DVD-Rewriter (the former is a £140 upgrade). While many high-end ‘designer’ machines opt for slot-loading drives instead, Dell’s choice here offers more flexibility - slot-loading drives can’t handle mini or odd-shaped CDs - less chance for dust to get in and is cheaper, thus keeping the overall cost down.
As far as connectivity goes, the Zino HD offers nearly everything you could want. At the front are a headphone socket, two USB ports and a memory card reader. The back houses another two plain USB ports and two combined eSATA/USB ports, which is a great touch for those who want fast access to multiple external storage devices before USB 3.0 becomes standard and a rare find on any desktop machine.
There’s a Gigabit Ethernet port and the classic pink and green microphone and lineout sockets, though no analogue or dedicated digital audio outputs for surround sound. Finally for video we have VGA and HDMI. Though it’s a bit confusing that Dell only mentions 2.1/stereo audio output on its website, fear not as this just refers to the analogue outputs and HDMI carries full 5.1 surround sound.
In use the Zino HD emits an audible but unobtrusive hum, and gets warm though not hot to the touch. Overall it makes for a great user experience. Its external power brick is large but can be easily hidden away, and we’re glad Dell has chosen to go this route - as to include the PSU in the Zino itself would have led to an unfortunate increase in size.
Speaking of user experience, the included wireless mouse and keyboard are surprisingly good. It’s the same set that Dell has been bundling with its premium desktop machines for a while and offers decent build quality and good looks. Both the mouse and keyboard run off standard AA batteries making it easy to use rechargeable ones. The accompanying dongle is a bit on the large side compared to recent efforts from Microsoft and Logitech but at least looks the part in semi-transparent black garb.
The keyboard has a neat and fairly standard layout, though the Page Up/Down key cluster layout is slightly altered to be narrower than usual. Key feedback is soft but well-defined, and the matte surround extends to offer a comfortable palm-rest. A glossy strip along the top houses application shortcuts to the left and media controls to the right, while the volume wheel is a stylish highlight.
On the other hand the ambidextrous mouse is as basic as it gets with just two buttons and a two-way scroll wheel. In terms of design it has matte sides and a glossy top that attracts the usual blemishes. As for ergonomics, it's relatively comfortable, though nothing too clever. Its buttons have a positive click and the rubberised wheel provides notched feedback.