ZOTAC ZBox HD-ID11 and Next Gen ION

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Introducing, The ZBox

Nettop PCs are sort of a re-purposing of a product category that was popularized in the business world, formerly known as "thin clients."  Though thin client PCs are relatively "dumb" machines that rely on enterprise intranet services and servers to run applications, nettops need to have a bit more capability and operate autonomously.  Regardless, both species of machine are targeted with some of the same fundamentals in mind, low profile, low power consumption computing with at least a semi-stylish appearance that blends in cleanly with its environment.  One byproduct of this minimalist approach is cost and as such, nettops can offer an impressive value for potential customers looking to integrate base-level computing into their kitchen, bedroom or perhaps as a Home Theater PC (HTPC). 

Though when we start to consider the requirements of an HTPC, obviously features, functionality and performance have to be turned up a notch and that's what NVIDIA's next generation Ion graphics chip was built to address.  Intel's low power Atom platform has garnered an inordinate share of design wins in the netbook and nettop market, but there's no denying even the dual core variant of Intel's most recent Pineview-based Atom chip still doesn't have the muscle to get the job done for higher-end HD video playback, never mind even light-duty gaming.  However, with NVIDIA's Ion graphics core at play, Intel's Atom platform gets legs, as they say.

Today we're going to be looking at a product that incorporates not only Intel's new generation of dual-core Atom D510 processor but also NVIDIA's latest Ion graphics core into what could very well be a capable machine for a myriad of small form-factor computing requirements, including possibly taking residence in your living room entertainment center.  The Zotac Zbox is here.  It's a little over 7 inches square and a little over 1.5-inches thick but don't let its diminutive size fool you.


Be sure to check out our full analysis with benchmark details on the pages ahead.

 

Zotac ZBox (HD-ID11)
System Specifications

Processor
Intel Atom D510 (Dual-Core, 1.66GHz)

Motherboard

Zotac Custom-built ION

Operating System
None  Supplied - Windows 7 Home Premium Installed

Memory
None Supplied - 2GB DDR2-800 Installed

Graphics

NVIDIA Next Generation ION (GeForce GT218)

CPU Cooling

Heatsink/Fan

Audio

Onboard HD

Hard Drive

None Supplied - Seagate ST95032AS (500GB, 5400 RPM)

Networking

Realtek PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet
Atheros AR9285 802.11n Wireless

Case
Custom Zotac design

Optical Drive
None


Power Supply
External

Front Panel I/O Ports

1 USB 2.0 (Front)
1 Card Reader
1 Headset
1 Mic

1 USB 2.0 (Top)


Rear Panel I/O Ports
1 eSATA
4 USB 2.0
1 HDMI

1 RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet
1 SPDIF Digital Output


Accessories
VESA-compatible monitor mounting bracket
System Stand


Warranty and Support
1 Year Limited


Price:
$259.99




NVIDIA's Next-Gen Ion Graphics Processor, aka the GeForce 218GT

The first generation NVIDIA Ion solution, as you may recall, was actually a combination memory controller and IO hub chip, as well as a graphics core that Intel's low power Atom CPU bolted directly up to.  This time around, Intel saw fit to partition off their own IO controller hub and integrate the memory controller into the Atom core itself.  As such, NVIDIA's Ion core, though with new, optimized core engines, a smaller die size, and dedicated 512MB of frame buffer, is essentially just a discrete GPU solution for the Atom platform.  Next we'll take a closer look at the Zbox itself...

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