Zotac Next Gen NVIDIA Ion-Based ZBox Sneak Peek

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News Posted: Mon, May 3 2010 3:40 PM
NVIDIA's Ion chipset has been propping up sluggish Intel Atom-based netbook and notebook performance, in HD media playback capability, for some time now.  Even Intel's revamped Pinetrail platform with on-chip graphics couldn't offer enough multimedia muscle to be considered viable beyond standard business class applications, a bit of web browsing and email.  Of course with the new Atom's integrated memory controller, NVIDIA had to re-purpose their technology in the form of what is essentially a dedicated GPU, just for Intel's Pinetrail Atom derivative.

So what business does a dedicated GPU have being coupled to a low power nettop platform?  In short, plenty, if you're the type that actually plans to do more with this class of machine, in a Home Theater PC setting or the like. Zotac was one of the first manufacturers to hit the scene with a first generation Intel Atom and NVIDIA Ion-based nettop, so it's only fitting that they're up to the plate quickly with the next-gen Ion platform for Intel's latest dual-core Atom derivative.

 
 
This little bad boy is based on an Intel Atom D510 dual-core processor clocked at 1.66GHz.  The on-chip memory controller supports up to 4GB of DDR2-800 system memory.  However, this Atom actually doesn't have an on-chip graphics core and only consumes about 13 Watts of power on its own.

    
Your choice of ports -- many mainstream storage, IO and graphics interfaces are supported.

On the front side, a flash card reader, front panel audio, and a USB port are available.  On the back IO plate; eSATA, USB, DVI, HDMI  and an optical audio port -- what else could you want in a machine of this size?

 
On-Board 512MB DDR3 Graphics Frame Buffer Beefs-Up Ion

 
Waiting for a 2.5-inch HD or SSD and SODIMM, then it's ready to mount (standard VESA mount).


Dual-Core Pineview Atom (not Diamondville) with Hyperthreading at 1.66GHz

Nestled underneath the fan and heatsink assembly are our two GPU and CPU partners in crime.  All you need  to complete the Zotac barebones experience is a 2.5" notebook hard drive or SSD and a single DDR2 SODIMM, though we would have preferred dual slot availability, especially since 4GB SODIMM support is forthcoming, but not ready yet supposedly.  We'll have more on the machine in our full review in the coming week.  So stay tuned.
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Please make sure to benchmark the wireless card at a decent distance before you make a purchase recommemdation:

http://www.zotacusa.com/forum/topic/2566-mag-hd-nd01-wireless-n-is-awful/

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MHirsch replied on Tue, May 4 2010 12:29 PM

This Ion 1 or 2?

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CAndre replied on Tue, May 4 2010 1:48 PM

These are supposed to start shipping in the next week or two - does anybody have any idea what the retail price will be?

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I also agree about testing the wireless. Further, if you can, please test the performance of win 7 Media Center. While browsing through the interface and playing a 1080p clip (mkv or mov) in the background, does the interface slow down or is it just as responsive as when there's nothing playing? Does the interface crawl when music plays and the album art animates in the background? How long does it take for the tv guide to come up? The previous generation of ion systems didn't do well on these questions, so it would be interesting to see how the zbox performs. Anyway, it seems like most reviewers never test these things even though they’re extremely important for those of us who want to use such a system as an HTPC.

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Dave_HH replied on Tue, May 4 2010 2:48 PM

Thanks for the feedback and insight folks. We'll see what we can come up with for testing methodology.

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Please test playing 720p and 1080p mkv files from remote storage both over wifi and wired.

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thranx replied on Tue, May 4 2010 3:45 PM

I concur, and am looking forward to this review.  I like the package, this looks promising.

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Roy2001 replied on Tue, May 4 2010 5:17 PM

2 concers: 1. How about fan noise and 2. is the fan easy to break and easy to find a substitue?

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winono replied on Tue, May 4 2010 10:26 PM

Not dvd bay? What a mistake,dear

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winono:

Not dvd bay? What a mistake,dear

That is why its called a nettop and not a desktop. 

"Never trust a computer you can't throw out a window."

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I wonder if it could be used as a full HD htpc. I mean to perform a recording (from a usb tv tuner), while you are viewing full HD content (from the disk or other usb tv tuner). If so, it would be a good candidate for a basic htpc.

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