Dell's squarish Dell Inspiron Zino HD 410 compact desktop PC is back, with a few impressive tweaks to make it even stronger than it was before.

But the internals of this tiny, black PC aren't the only things that Dell amped up: the price of our configured system jumped to £759 inc VAT and delivery (up from £399 for its predecessor). We love the upgrades Dell that explain the higher price, but the Inspiron Zino HD 410 is approaching budget desktop PC territory, where this sort of budget buys a lot of power and versatility.

The Dell Zino HD 410 incorporates a 1.7GHz AMD Phenom II X4 processor - a step up from its predecessor's 1.5GHz AMD Athlon 3250e CPU - and it doubles the memory of its older companion to reach 8GB of DDR3-1333 RAM (although the model we tested had 'only' 6GB RAM). Similarly, the system's storage jumps from 320GB to 1TB.

On our WorldBench 6 test suite, the Dell Zino HD 410 outperformed its predecessor by 32 percent - pretty impressive, and with the full 8GB it should be more impressive still. In our gaming tests, the system managed a frame rate of 16.5 frames per second on our Unreal Tournament 3 benchmark (at 2560 by 2100 resolution and high quality) - a big step up from the previous iteration's 0 fps, but still very nearly unplayable. We had to crank our resolution down to about 1024 by 768 for adequate game play.

The performance is great, and the Dell Zino HD 410 comes with more storage, more memory, and more extra features than most compacts. You rarely see a compact PC rocking a Blu-ray drive, but Dell's system does - and that may be the single biggest upgrade between it and the earlier Zino HD. We approve wholeheartedly.

The port configurations (which we criticised in the older Zino HD) haven't changed much in the new version, but Dell does supply a keyboard that's larger than the system it connects to. The keyboard comes has extra buttons for launching applications and controlling multimedia - and it's wireless, as is the included two-button mouse. As a result, four USB ports (two front, two rear) are available to peripherals, whereas in the previous version two of the four had to accommodate the system's wired keyboard and mouse.

The Dell Zino HD 410's front hosts a multiformat card reader, too. The rear is only bolstered by a single new port: An SPDIF optical connection joins the two USB ports, two eSATA ports, a VGA connector, an HDMI port, and gigabit ethernet. Wireless-N connectivity is built into the Zino HD 410 in case cords aren't your cup of tea.

The Dell Zino HD 410 is not designed for upgrading. The easiest switch you can make involves swapping out the top of the system's case for a plastic hat in a colour of your choosing.

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Dell Inspiron Zino HD 410: Specs

  • AMD Phenom II X4 P940 (1.70GHz, 512kx4)
  • 8192MB Dual Channel DDR3 [2x4096] Memory
  • 1TB (7200rpm) SATA Hard Drive
  • ATI Radeon HD 5450 1GB graphics
  • Blu-Ray ROM Drive (read/write CD/DVD & read Blu-Ray Disc)
  • Windows 7 Home Premium, 64bit
  • McAfee SecurityCenter 15-Month Subscription
  • Dell Wireless 1520 Half Mini Card (802.11n)
  • DataSafe Online Backup 2GB 1 year
  • AMD Phenom II X4 P940 (1.70GHz, 512kx4)
  • 8192MB Dual Channel DDR3 [2x4096] Memory
  • 1TB (7200rpm) SATA Hard Drive
  • ATI Radeon HD 5450 1GB graphics
  • Blu-Ray ROM Drive (read/write CD/DVD & read Blu-Ray Disc)
  • Windows 7 Home Premium, 64bit
  • McAfee SecurityCenter 15-Month Subscription
  • Dell Wireless 1520 Half Mini Card (802.11n)
  • DataSafe Online Backup 2GB 1 year

OUR VERDICT

The Dell Zino HD 410 is a speedy, connected, Blu-ray-ready system that takes up little more space on your bookshelf than a typical Victor Hugo novel would. You can find better-performing, easier-to-upgrade budget systems. But if a compact design is high on your wish list of desirable features, this compact PC makes a lot of sense.

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