Zotac ZBOX ID80 Plus Mini PC Review

PCMark Vantage & PCMark 7

To kick things off we fired up Futuremark's system performance benchmark, PCMark Vantage. This synthetic benchmark suite simulates a range of real-world scenarios and workloads, stressing various system subsets in the process. Everything you'd want to do with your PC -- watching HD movies, music compression, image editing, gaming, and so forth -- is represented here.  Also, most of the tests are multi-threaded, making this a good indicator of all-around performance.

Futuremark PCMark Vantage
Simulated Application Performance

There are a number of reasons why Zotac's ZBOX ID80 Plus didn't perform as strongly as other some other HTPCs we've seen, one of which is the crummy memory bandwidth afforded by Intel's Cedar Trail platform. Even though our box came configured with a single 2GB DDR3-1333MHz memory stick, Cedar Trail only supports up to 1066MHz.

Nvidia's GeForce GT 520M should give the ZBOX ID80 Plus some graphical pep, but it can't work miracles. The GT 520M is an entry-level GPU with 48 CUDA cores and a narrow 64-bit memory bus. On top of that, Zotac's box doesn't support independent drivers provided by Nvidia. That prevented us from testing the unit with the latest graphics drivers that were available at the time of this writing -- 295.73 -- and instead we had to use the ones provided on Zotac's website (280.35).

Finally, the slow spinning mechanical hard drive (5400 RPM) is built for power-saving storage, not speed, so it wasn't able to pick up any of the slack.

PCMark 7 is a newer version of Futuremark's system benchmark, providing us a second look at the overall picture. Even with the discrete graphics, the ZBOX ID80 Plus isn't a powerhouse PC, though to be fair it wasn't designed to be one either. This is, after all, a $325 SFF PC.

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
Synthetic DirectX Gaming

Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark Vantage, is specifically bound to Windows Vista and 7-based systems because it uses some advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 10, which isn't available on previous versions of Windows.  3DMark Vantage isn't simply a port of 3DMark06 to DirectX 10 though.  With this version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, in addition to support for the latest PC hardware.  We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark Vantage's Performance preset option, which uses a resolution of 1280x1024

Here again we see the Zotac ZBOX ID80 Plus struggle with 3D benchmarks, and the reason for that is partially due to the relatively weak GPU. Despite the 500 series nomenclature, the GeForce GT 520M is really just a faster clocked GT 415M. Both mobile parts have 48 CUDA cores and GDDR3 memory clocked at 800MHz on a narrow 64-bit bus. The GT 520M clocks the GPU at 740MHz versus 500MHz on the GT 415M. It gets worse if we compare the 520M to the 420M, the latter (and older) of which sports twice as many CUDA cores (96) and a memory bus that's twice as wide (128-bit).

Futuremark's newer 3DMark 11 benchmark breaks things down in more detail and further underscores the trouble the GeForce GT 520M faces as a gaming GPU. It just doesn't have the muscle for any kind of serious gaming, though casual games like Peggle and other less demanding titles are, well, fair game.

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