Monday, 8 February 2010

Dell Zino HD (Take Two)

As I type from my laptop while up in the bedroom, I'm watching my replacement Dell Zino HD (see previous post) go through its "Windows Experience Index" tests. I don't expect any spectacular results, but I am curious. I notice that in Windows 7, the maximum index has been upped from Vista's 5.9 to 7.9. So, have a watch of this again while it's running.

No surprise, it just finished and came up with a rating of 3.1, which is determined by the lowest score, which was the graphics card.
  • 3.6 : Processor - Calculations per second
  • 5.0 : Memory (RAM) - Memory operations per second
  • 3.1 : Graphics - Desktop performance for Windows Aero
  • 4.8 : Gaming graphics - 3D business and gaming graphics performance
  • 5.9 : Primary hard disk - Disk data transfer rate
So, overall, a bit better than I expected, but still nothing amazing.  I don't expect it would handle something like World of Warcraft in its current state.

This article is really about the ease of setup and general information regarding my experiences and first impressions with this device.  I'll post again in a couple of weeks and let you know if I still think it seems like a neat bit of kit.  I'm treating this as a sort of "for dummies" exercise, as this is just going to be a media center, and will not really satisfy any of my usual PC needs (except to maybe play the occasional Youtube video full screen on the TV) so I don't want to have to go in-depth with this machine to sort out any of the troubleshooting issues that usually come with setting up a new PC.  I want this to be smooth and easy.

The box is very small.  It has a footprint of about 8"x8" and is only about 3.5" high.  Great looking little box besides the TV, and it's almost completely silent.  As the box is so small, there's no room for an internal PCI TV Tuner card, so I picked up an external Hauppauge WinTV USB stick, which is currently attached to the PC via a USB extension cable and gaffer taped to the top of the TV in order to be able to see the remote control (I'm definitely going to have to work on an alternative solution for that one).  Now to find out if the CD that comes with the WinTV is really as "Compatibly with Windows 7" as it claims.

Well, plugging in the device did fire Windows into life, and while it did not detect a driver available for automatic installtion, a screen popped up that sent me directly to a download from the Hauppauge website.  I didn't even have to go sifting through pages and pages of support; I just click the link from within Windows and it asks me to save a file.  Drivers extracted into a new folder, and Windows now tells me to click the setup file.  All good so far.  And there we go, drivers installed without even having to take the supplied CD out of its packet.

I'm going to assume that this has not installed Hauppauge's own TV software, which is perfectly fine with me as I plan to use Windows Media Center anyway.  The only reason it's been needed in the past on XP and Vista setups is in order to be able to utilise the IR remote control.  Let us hope that all goes to plan.

Batteries in the remote, point it at the TV, press the green button, and.. oh.  That was unexpected.  It told the PC to shut down.  Or, more correctly, it seems to have put it into sleep mode as pressing it again powered it back up without issue.  Let's try that again, with the "Go" button this time. Up comes Windows Media Center.  Success!

Setting up the TV section seems to be going smoothly.  It's detected the WinTV USB stick, has seemingly downloaded my 14 day program guide and is currently scanning for channels I can receive.  I must say that I have the device plugged into the aeriel on the roof, and not the little portable antenna that's packaged with the device (which has often proven in the past to be just a tiny bit worse than completely useless).

Now this is interesting.  Loading up the program guide shows that I can get Sky Player, let's give it a whirl.  Create a Sky ID, done.  Login, done.  Play some Sky News.  Nothing, black screen.  Click back, lots of flickering through different menus and confusion.  Nope, guess that's not working.  I'll have to do some digging on that later and get back to you.

Switch over to Dave, and there's...  Sorry, got distracted there watching Top Gear until Sun came up and asked me if I wanted to allow automatic updates to Java.  I imagine I'll be getting these for a couple of days as various things come to action and expect me to do something about it.  Well, never mind, it's repeated on Dave Ja Vu, so I'll just set it to automatically record.  Oh, new interface on the recording options since Vista Media Center.

The interesting thing so far, is that I've not had to touch a keyboard or mouse since installing the WinTV, except to enter my postcode when setting up the TV listings guide.

But anyway.  More on the Dell Zino HD in a couple of days.  The Top Gear show I was half-watching is about to start over on Dave Ja Vu, so I'm going to watch a DVD and let it record in the background.  Let's see if it can cope. :)

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