Zotac Zbox Plus ID45 Review
The mini-PC market has flourished over recent years. Due to their small footprint, they're now able to be used for a variety of applications, such as HTPCs at home, space saving desktops in the office with their compact design allowing them to be mounted onto the back of monitors, and also as day to day PCs able to fit in the smallest of rooms. As the average consumer is turning more and more towards laptops for ease of portability, mini-PCs have helped to extend the life of desktops for the average user.
Despite the hardware being available, it's actually often rather difficult to build yourself a tiny PC as small as what we see from companies such as Zotac, Intel, Shuttle, and numerous other manufacturers. For a start, you're limited to motherboards that allow for external power supplies, and you also have to equate for a case small enough to compete with the whole systems available from the larger companies. All in all, it's probably easier to buy a full system and have done with it, rather than worry about compatibility when building one of these tightly packed systems.
Now brings the question; which one do you choose? For a user looking to run one of these as a media PC connected to a TV, or for day to day office tasks, the chances are Intel or AMD's onboard graphics solutions will be more than sufficient. We've recently seen large increases in performance with recent models of onboard graphics with both parties, but they still often aren't quite enough to cut it in games. Intel's i3 3220 in our tests only managed to get around 5-10 frames per second in most of our game tests, making it unplayable at 1920x1080, and although considerably better, the AMD A10-6800k also had great difficulties in certain games. Overall, neither of these onboard solutions would actually allow for the user to enjoy the majority of games we tested, and in the a lot of cases it would be completely unplayable without reducing settings to their lowest values, which does still beg the question as to whether it's really worth it.
This leads us on to other options for consumers wishing to play games on incredibly compact systems. Well, as far as these mini options go, you're pretty limited in the current market. When SteamOS has worked out its bugs then onboard solutions may become a feasible options, although you'd still need a computer with ability to game in a different room, and so for a lot of consumers that isn't really going to be much of a substitute. However, Zotac may have the answer.
To follow on in their Zbox series which encompass laptop processors into tiny PCs, Zotac have now added a dedicated graphics chip into a system. Is this going to be the game changer for the mini-PC market?
Intel Core i3 3227U (dual core with HyperThreading, 1.9GHz)
|GPU||Nvidia GT 640 with 2GB GDDR3|
2x204-pin DDR3 1600 SO-DIMM slots (1x4GB DDR3 memory included)
1x 2.5inch HDD/SSD bay SATA 6.0GB/s (500GB Hard Drive included)
1x mSATA 3.0GB/s
Dual Gigabit LAN (10/100/1000 Mbps)
Onboad 8-chanel Digital Audio
Stereo Analogue Audio
|I/O||HDMI, DVI, VGA via adapter, S/PDIF, Mic/Headphone, 4xUSB3.0, 2xRJ45|
|Dimensions(LxWxD)||188mm x 188mm x 51mm|