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Zotac ZBOX Nano ID65 Plus Out NUCs Intel
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Date: Aug 23, 2013
Section:Systems
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

Zotac has been making ultra-small form factor systems for quite a while now. You can check out a number of our reviews of various ZBox systems right here. If you read those previous reviews, you’ll notice that most of the systems have been built around low-power platforms like AMD’s E-Series APUs or Intel’s Atom processors. With its latest generations of mini-PC’s, however, Zotac has been able to crank things up a few notches. With some recently released ZBoxes, Zotac has managed to squeeze in Intel Core-series processors, which put the diminutive systems into an entirely different performance category.

The latest Zotac ZBox to hit the lab is the ZBox Nano ID65 Plus. Despite its relatively tiny 5”-square form factor, which is only a touch larger than Intel's NUC, this particular machine is powered by an Ivy Bridge-based Intel Core i7 processor with integrated HD 4000 series graphics. The Plus designation in the model name also signifies that this system includes memory and a hard drive—in this case, 4GB of DDR3-1600 and a 500GB Samsung HD. Non-Plus models are sold barebones, so you’ll have to provide memory and storage of your own.

The full specs for the system are below, along with some other features and details. On the pages ahead we’ll get up close and personal with the ZBox Nano ID65 Plus, take a gander at its internals, and see how it performs in a variety of use cases. If you’re in the market for a relatively powerful mini-PC, you’ll want to stick around as we dig into this new tiny machine.

Zotac ZBox Nano ID65 PLUS
Specifications & Features



Zotac ZBox Nano ID65 PLUS Accessories and Bundle

Zotac includes a wide array of accessories with the Zbox Nano ID65 PLUS. Along with the machine itself, users will find an owner’s manual and warranty card, a driver / utility disc, a Wi-Fi antenna, a standard VESA monitor mount, a small power brick, a mini-Optical-to-Optical adapter, and the rather unique ZOTAC nanoRAID storage adapter.

We should point out that the monitor mount allows users to affix the system right to the back of a compatible LCD monitor, so the ZBox would take up literally no desk space at all.

The ZOTAC nanoRAID storage adapter is a noteworthy addition as well. This adapter gives users the ability to swap out a single 2.5” drive for dual mSATA SSDs, which can be configured for either RAID 0 (striping, performance) or RAID 1 (mirroring, redundancy). We’re hoping to get our hands on a couple of fast mSATA SSDs to test with the adapter soon—there’s something about running a RAID 0 array with SSDs in a system barely 5” square that seems too awesome not to try.
 

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Inspecting The ZBox Nano ID65

The Zotac ZBox Nano ID65 PLUS is about as small as full-featured small form factor systems get. As most of you are probably aware, Intel’s Atom and AMD’s E-Series APUs have allowed OEMs to produce some truly tiny devices, with virtually all of the base functionality of a standard PC. The ZBox Nano ID65 PLUS, however, is powered by an Ivy Bridge-based Core i7 processor, yet still managed is squeeze into a tiny 5” x 5” x 1.77”enclosure.


Zotac ZBox Nano ID65 PLUS--Front View

The ZBox Nano ID65 PLUS has a mostly aluminum enclosure, with plastic covers on the top and bottom. The front of the device is home to a 7-in-1 flash card reader, headphone and microphone jacks, an IR receiver, activity LEDs, two USB 2.0 ports and the power button. One side of the machine is completely bare, while the other houses a few air vents, and the back is home to the vast majority of the machines I/O.


Zotac ZBox Nano ID65 PLUS--Rear View

On the back, users will find the power jack, DP and HDMI outputs, four USB 3.0 ports, a lock port, RJ45 LAN jack, eSATA, and an antenna mount for the integrated Wi-Fi controller. Connectivity is very good on the ZBox Nano ID65 PLUS, but we wouldn’t mind seeing the eSATA port for in favor of a couple more USB 3.0 ports.


Zotac ZBox Nano ID65 PLUS--Top View

The bottom of the machine has four rubber feet, which double as thumbscrews and hold an access panel in place. The top of the ZBox Nano ID65 PLUS appears black when the system is off, but has a lighted blue ring when powered on.
 

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Inside the ZBox Nano ID65

Opening up and working on the Zotac ZBox Nano ID65 PLUS is surprisingly easy, despite the machine’s ultra small form factor. While some machines in this class require poking and prodding with shims and screwdrivers, to pop fragile plastic clips, the ZBox Nano can be opened up by simply removing four thumbscrews, which double as the machine’s soft rubber feet.

With the system opened up, its motherboard, hard drive, RAM, and Intel mini-PCIe Wi-Fi controller are easily accessible. There is only a single DIMM slot in the device, which supports up to 8GB of RAM and a standard 2.5” HD with 9.5mm Z-Height can be used. Since this is a “Plus” model, a Samsung 500GB hard drive was included along with 4GB of DDR3-1600 RAM. Although adequate, we found this configuration to drag performance down, somewhat. The Intel Core i7-3537U CPU is relatively powerful, so pairing it to faster storage and more RAM would make for some noticeable improvements to performance and enhance the overall user experience.

Although not visible in our pics, as we’ve mentioned earlier, there is a Core i7-3537U CPU on the hidden side of the motherboard’s PCB, along with Intel H77 chipset. This particular CPU has a base clock of 2.1GHz and can boost iup to 3.1GHz. It's a dual-core chip with HyperThreading enabled (2 cores, 4 threads), and features integrated Intel HD 4000 series graphics.  We should note, however, that the memory is configured with only a single channel, so overall performance and especially graphics performance, may be held back somewhat.  There is also a slim heatsink with barrel type fan, which exhausts air out of the side of the ZBox Nano. We found the single fan to be very quiet and the machine never gets warm or emits a ton of heat. It is not completely silent, but we would have no problem with the system residing in a home theater environment.

Finally, here’s a shot of the Nano mounted to the back of an LCD monitor using the included mount. Pair this machine with a wireless desktop and a slim monitor and that’s about as small a footprint as possible with today’s PC tech, without resorting to a mobile device.
 

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Total Performance: PCMark

Test System Configuration Notes: We compared the ZBox Nano ID65 Plus' performance to an array of other HTPC systems we've used in the past. We compared the ID65 to a number of AMD Zacate E-350 Processor-based platforms and a handful of other mobile platforms based upon Intel's Atom or NVIDIA's ION as well. The comparisons will show relative performance versus other low-power power platforms, but as you'll see, the ZBox Nano ID65 Plus is markedly more powerful than any of the other systems, save for ASRock's larger, more expensive Vision 3D series HTPC. In the absence of similarly configured mobile machines to be used for reference testing, we used performance data on hand from other HTPCs, which unfortunately don't offer nearly as much performance.

HotHardware's Test Systems
Intel and AMD - Head To Head

System 1:
ASRock Vision 3D 252B
Core i5-2520M CPU
(2.5GHz Dual-Core)
NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M
2x4GB DDR3-1333
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio
2.5" WD Caviar Black HD
Windows 7 x64

System 2:
ASRock Vision 3D 137B
Core i3-370M CPU
(2.4GHz Dual-Core)
NVIDIA GeForce GT 425M
2x2GB DDR3-1066
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio
2.5" WD Caviar Black HD
Windows 7 x64

System 3:
Zotac Zbox HD AD03
Gigabyte E350N-USB3
AMD E-350 Zacate Processor
(1.6GHz - Dual-Core)
AMD Hudson IO Hub
2x2GB DDR3-1066
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio
2.5" Samsung HD
Windows 7 x64

System 4:
Intel Atom D525
(1.8GHz - Dual-Core)
Asus Eee PC1215N
2x2GB DDR3-1066
NVIDIA Ion 2
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio
2.5" Seagate HD
Windows 7 x64

Preliminary Testing with PCMark Vantage
Synthetic Benchmarks

First up, we ran our test systems through Futuremark’s latest system performance evaluation tool, PCMark Vantage. PCMark Vantage runs through a host of different usage scenarios to simulate different types of workloads including High Definition TV and movie playback and manipulation, gaming, image editing and manipulation, music compression, communications, and productivity. Most of the tests are multi-threaded as well, so the tests can exploit the additional resources offered by a multi-core CPU.

The ZBox Nano ID65 Plus traded victories with the ASRock Vision 3D system in PCMark's various tests. Had Zotac outfitted the rig with a dual-channel memory setup and perhaps a faster drive, however, the ZBox Nano would probably have been sitting pretty at the top of the charts. As it stands, though, the ZBox Nano ID65 Plus is clearly more powerful and better performing than its AMD E-Series based counterpart.

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Performance: Cinebench and 3DMark

Cinebench R11.5 is an tile-based rendering performance test based on Cinema 4D from Maxon. Cinema 4D is a 3D rendering and animation tool suite used by 3D animation houses and producers like Sony Animation and many others. It's very demanding of system processor resources and is an excellent gauge of pure computational throughput.

Cinebench R11.5
3D Rendering

This is a multi-threaded, multi-processor aware benchmark that renders a single 3D scene and tracks the length of the entire process. The rate at which each test system was able to render the entire scene is represented in the graph below.

Like the PCMark Vantage tests on the previous page, the ZBox Nano ID65 Plus blows past the lower-power platforms, but it trailed the ASRock system and Intel's NUC in the OpenGL test--mostly likely due to the Zotac's system single-channel memory configuration, which offers half the bandwidth of the NUC or ASRock rig. In the CPU test, however, the ZBox Nano ID65 Plus takes a clear lead.

3DMark Vantage CPU Score
DirectX Gaming

3DMark Vantages built-in CPU tests are multi-threaded DirectX gaming metrics that are useful for comparing relative performance between similarly equipped systems. This tests consists of two different 3D scenes that are processed with a software renderer that is dependent on the host CPU's performance. Calculations that are normally reserved for the 3D accelerator are instead sent to the CPU for processing and rendering. The system's performance in each test is used to determine the final score.

The ZBox Nano ID65 Plus' Core i7 processor is clearly more powerful than the Core i3 used in the ASRock system or the low-power E-Series APUs or Atom processor used in the other systems.
 

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Performance: Gaming

For our next set of tests, we moved on to some in-game benchmarking with Left 4 Dead 2 and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. When testing low-power platforms with L4D2 or ET:QW, we dialed the image quality settings down to medium quality settings and tested at various resolutions. Since these are more entry-level game tests running on relatively low-power platforms or platforms equipped with mobile parts, we left anti-aliasing turned off and image quality settings set from moderate to high levels where possible.

3D Gaming: ET: Quake Wars and Left 4 Dead 2
Testing Zacate's GPU

The Intel HD 4000 series graphics core wasn't really designed with gaming in mind, and it's being held back somewhat by the single-channel memory configuration in the ZBox Nano ID65, but it still managed to outpace the E-350 in the tests we ran.  The GeForce GT 425M used in the ASRock system, however, was the clear leader here.
 

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Total System Power Consumption

Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored how much power our test systems consumed using a power meter. Our goal was to give you all an idea as to how much power the base platform configuration used while idling and while under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the processors alone.

Total System Power Consumption
Tested at the Outlet

The Zotac ZBox Nano ID65 put up some surprisingly low power consumption numbers. Idle and peak power were markedly higher than its AMD E-350 based counterparts, but the ID65 didn't consume nearly as much power as ASRock's offering, despite the Zotac rig's more powerful CPU.
 

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Quality and User Experience
To test video decode and playback capabilities of ASRock Vision 3D 252B HTPC, we played back a 1080p H.264-encoded QuickTime clip, along with 1080p Blu-ray movie content, a 1080P MKV file, and HD Flash video (along with just about every other file type). We then fired up Windows Task Manager take a look at CPU utilization in all instances.

HD Video Playback and CPU Utilization
HD Video Decode Performance


Full Screen 1080p YouTube Video Playback


Full HD H.264 MP4 Playback, Streaming From a NAS Device

Playback of every file type we threw at the Zotac ZBox Nano ID65 Plus was virtually flawless. We have been using the machine both in the lab and in a home theater environment for about a week and there hasn't been a single file or type of media the machine couldn’t handle. CPU utilization was low with every file we tested, including H.264 encoded MKVs or MP4s and Flash video, and the quality of the video output to both a desktop monitor or Samsung 3D HDTV was excellent.

As you can see in the images above, CPU utilization was very low when playing back HD content. We should point out that these screen caps were taken with the machine connected to an 802.11n wireless network, either streaming form YouTube or playing back an MP4 stored on a NAS attached to the same network.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The Zotac ZBox Nano ID65 Plus performed relatively well throughout our entire battery of tests. The system and CPU-level benchmarks showed the ID65 clearly outperforming the lower-power platforms and the Core i3-based ASRock Vision 3D HTPC. In the GPU centric tests, however, the Zotac ZBox Nano ID65 Plus didn’t fare as well. The system’s single-channel memory configuration likely held it back somewhat, but the Intel HD 4000 series graphics engine isn’t a powerhouse to begin with. In terms of its multimedia chops, the Zotac ZBox Nano ID65 Plus was a winner. Every file we threw at the system played back very well, with minimal CPU utilization and good image quality.


The Zotac ZBox Nano ID65 Plus

We’ve really liked the previous ZBox Nano systems we’ve looked it, which featured AMD E-Series APUs. This latest ZBox Nano, however, is easily the most attractive of the bunch. Cramming a much more powerful CPU into the rig and incorporating more USB 3.0 ports and a better Intel-based WiFi controller simply make the newer ID65 more appealing in our opinion. Factor in the cool Zotac nanoRAID storage adapter, which gives users the ability to run SSDs in RAID, and the Zotac ZBox Nano ID65 Plus is all the more attractive.

All of this goodness comes at a price, though. As of this writing, the Zotac ZBox Nano ID65 Plus can be had for about $590, which is hundreds more than an E-Series based ZBox Nano. Of course, the ID65 offers much better performance, but the cost will surely be limiting factor for some. As we’ve said in previous ZBox “Plus” reviews, we’d recommend consumers seek out the non-Plus edition of the ID65 if possible, which is available for about $510. The 4GB of memory and 500GB hard drive in the ID65 Plus are adequate, but this little rig is just begging for more memory and a faster drive.

Ultimately, the Zotac ZBox Nano ID65 Plus is a very attractive product. Anyone in the market for a powerful small form factor system or an HTPC that won’t break a sweat with virtually any file type should give this tiny rig some serious consideration.

  • Great Performance
  • Relatively Low Power
  • Quiet
  • Tiny

 

  • Somewhat Pricey
  • No OS Included



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