|A member of the Funky Media Group|
|Review: Zotac ZBox Blu-Ray Mini PC (HD-ID34BR)|
|Posted by Winston|
|Wednesday, 08 September 2010 00:02|
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When netbooks were first introduced back in 2007/2008, many manufacturers saw a huge potential, in what was a new and emerging market. So they all jumped on the bandwagon, and before you knew it ... we saw a huge increase in netbook products. What makes netbooks so attractive, is its portability and size ... making it ideal for users who require simple Windows operation like web surfing and emails while on the move. Since most netbooks are powered by Intel's ATOM processor, it's not meant to replace existing ultra-mobile notebooks. Although the ATOM processor can cope with general use and simple applications, it isn't really powerful enough to run CPU intensive applications such as Photo or Video editing software. Still, sales of ATOM based netbooks have never been so good ... even my mom has one, which she carries around for checking emails, online banking and even book flights !
Over the past year Intel ATOM processors have really matured, but I think there's plenty more room for Intel to further develope and improve the chip design. From the birth of netbooks, we've seen the first generation of ATOM processors, which were based on a single core architecture. Now, we have dual core ATOM processors with hyper-threading running at 1.8Ghz or more. Some of the newer netbooks now support DDR3 ram.
While the ATOM processor was originally developed for netbooks, it has also surprisingly spun a new market of its own ... the Nettops. Yes, that's right ... they're called Nettops. Again, manufacturers were quick to release miniature PCs based on the ATOM processor, that's literally no bigger than the netbook itself. Basically, these nettops were exactly the same at the netbooks, but without the LCD/LED screens. They are designed for the home user, primarily as a media-center for watching videos/movies, with the added bonus of Windows functionality. Some have no optical drives, while others have a DVD-RW drive and some even have Blu-Ray.
Zotac is well known for its graphics card products. They have won numerous awards for their overclocked cards based on Nvidia's Geforce GTX series. They are among the only manufacturers to release mini-ATX, as well as mini-ITX motherboards using Intel ATOM processors. Having mastered this market, it's only natural for Zotac to expand their product lines to include nettops and now mini PCs. In fact, since early last year they have already released over 10 different models of their nettops. The older MAG series (all-in-one units), and the newer Zbox series, which are all customisable. For those who are not familiar with Zotac or their products, here's something taken from their website ...
In this review, we'll be taking a look at the Zotac Zbox Blu-Ray HD (Model: HD-ID34BR). It's a mini-PC that features Intel's new ATOM D525 dual core processor running at 1.8Ghz, supporting hyper-threading technology and 800FSB. It uses Nvidia's ION graphics platform, which comes with built-in onboard 512Mb of DDR3 ram dedicated for graphics. The unit also comes with 2Gb of DDR2-800 ram in SODIMM format, and a large 250Gb 2.5" inch SATA hard drive, built-in WiFi, as well as a slim slot-loading x4 speed Blu-Ray drive and a 6-in1 card reader. It's also one of the few nettops or all-in-one units that features the new USB3.0 standard. Looking at this unit ... the specifications certainly sounds impressive. But what will our Funky review team think?The unit looks and feel very much like a standard DVD player with its silver and black exterior. It's powered by a separate power supply, rather like a netbook/notebook with an output of 19v. As for connectivity, the Zotac Zbox Blu-Ray HD has plenty ... including HDMI, DVI, eSATA, RJ45, SPDIF Optical, 1x USB2.0 and 2x USB3.0 ports. The unit can be laid flat or wall mounted using the included VESA mount/bracket. It could even be mounted behind a large monitor ... which makes it look "similar" to an all-in-one Apple Mac.
As an added bonus, Zotac has included a copy of Cyberlink's PowerDVD Blu-Ray edition, which I think is OK but still doesn't make up for the lack of Windows 7. You also get a DVI-to-VGA adaptor for those still using the older 15-pin VGA monitors. All-in-all, the Zotac Zbox Blu-Ray HD is packed with great features and plenty connectivity. I think it's definitely ideal as a media-center. Having said that, I must point out that no matter how good the product, price is an important factor for any potential buyer. So can Zotac set an attractive price point for its Zbox Blu-Ray HD?
It will be interesting to see how well this unit will perform in our tests. Can the new dual core ATOM D525 from Intel, along with Nvidia's ION graphics platform produce the goods? Since it's a more powerful nettop, I'll be expecting a slightly better performance over your standard netbook, but will Zotac's new ZBox Blu-Ray HD be a hit or a miss amongst our reviewers? Read on and find out. Right, let's not waste anymore time and take a closer look at the specifications of the Zotac Zbox Blu-Ray HD (HD-ID34BR) ...