by Ray Willington — Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Zotac ZBox Blu-ray HD-ID34 Nettop / HTPC Review
Design and Build Quality
Right off of the bat, the design of the ZBox HD-ID34 caught our eye. It's easily one of the most stylish nettops that we've seen, and honestly, it's one of the only nettops with an truly distinct aesthetic on the market. The vast majority of these systems are all small rectangles, easy to forget and hard to differentiate. But the new ID34 is a total overhaul and a breaking of the mold. It's mostly flat and designed to slide under your LCD monitor, under your television or slid into a bookshelf.
We really like how flexible the design is. This form factor is more suitable for proper home theater installations than say machines like the Dell Zino HD, and of course, the inclusion of a Blu-ray player really takes things up a notch. Zotac has clearly designed this machine to be a contender for the slim HTPC of 2010. It's one of the first nettop/HTPC machines to actually support Blu-ray, as players have just now become affordable enough to make sense in a bargain-centric nettop. It's also a slot-load drive versus a tray drive, which saves even more space. It can also burn CDs and DVDs. Needless to say, the optical drive is as good as it gets, particularly for a nettop.
The 1.8GHz Atom D525 and next-gen Ion 2 both mean that this machine is better designed for multi-media than lower performance nettops. The only downfalls to this compact system are the comparatively slow DDR2-800 memory (it has to use SO-DIMMS, not standard DIMMs for desktops) and the 2.5" hard drive slot, which limits your capacity. There are plenty of SSDs on the market that fit in 2.5" slots, but those hoping to store many hours of HD footage or movie archives will need to rely on external or networked storage. We should also point out that there is an available internal Mini-PCIe slot as well. In fact, there are two Mini-PCIe slots, but one of them is used for the machine's integrated WiFi.
The ZBox HD-ID34 is designed a lot like MSI's Wind Top III. You can easily mount this on the rear of most any LCD monitor or any other VESA mount, which makes the quantity of installation options nearly endless. But the internal specifications are better than most other nettops. It's a great mixture of low-power and space-saving.
The exterior is a cool brushed aluminum mixed with black / blue accents. This makes it suitable for hiding or for showcasing, again opening up the amount of options you have for installing it. On the front edge, there's the slot-load Blu-ray drive, a USB 2.0 port, a USB 3.0 port and audio in/out jacks. There's also a dedicated power button as well as an SD card reader.
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