Small Wonder: Zotac's HD-ND01 Nettop Review

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Zotac's MAG HD-ND01 is a great little system. It matches or exceeds the performance of Intel's Atom 330 / 945G platform in virtually every test and it's capable of playing some games at framerates you might actually want to play them at. Desktop performance under Windows 7 was surprisingly quick, the bundled wireless had no problem transferring data through several walls even though it lacks an external antenna, and the 2GB of RAM proved adequate to the tasks at hand. If there's a performance shortcoming, it's the hard drive. The modest Toshiba drive feels sprightly enough when you're doing very basic sorts of tasks, but anything that hits the south bridge or accesses the drive can lag significantly.

The MAG HD-ND01 is a great nettop system, but the question is, does the lilliputian box pack $300 worth of fabulous? At $199 the system would be an absolute steal ($249 also sounds reasonable), but $300 feels a tad high given the hoops most customers will have to jump through to get a functional OS on the system. Alternatively, Zotac could keep the price the same and simply bundle a modest USB 2.0 thumb drive in the box with optional OS images. There are any number of ways the company could improve the HD-ND01's shipping bundle, many of which might cost very little. If you've got a well-stocked library of multimedia data on a hard drive and don't do much ripping, this could be a great secondary system for you.

If you're looking for a small, capable system that could serve as a media center or secondary desktop, the MAG ND-HD01 is a good option, especially if you have the tools on hand to overcome its few shortcomings, or have an external optical drive. Perhaps the most telling thing about Zotac's MAG HD-ND01 is that it left us wondering about how it might be upgraded or modified to further improve performance. Intel's 945G chipset when paired with Atom, on the other hand, left us eager to finish testing it and get back to ION. The benchmarks really don't capture the qualitative difference between using the two or the subtle ways in which having a solid integrated GPU changes one's desktop experience.

As a final bonus, the nettop (though not the box it comes in) just might be small enough to fit inside a stocking. As geek-IT presents go, this one's pretty darn good.

  • Tiny form factor
  • Good performance
  • Best-in-class HD playback


  • No Optical Drive
  • Slowish hard drive


Tags:  Nvidia, Intel, Nettop, Zotac, Atom

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