Introduction and First Impressions
The Zotac ZBOX CI321 nano is a mini PC kit in the vein of the Intel NUC, and this version features a completely fanless design with built-in wireless for silent integration into just about any location. So is it fast enough to be an HTPC or desktop productivity machine? We will find out here.
I have reviewed a couple of mini-PCs in the past few months, most recently the ECS LIVA X back in January. Though the LIVA X was not really fast enough to be used as a primary device it was small and inexpensive enough to be an viable product depending on a user’s needs. One attractive aspect of the LIVA designs, and any of the low-power computers introduced recently, is the passive nature of such systems. This has unfortunately resulted in the integration of some pretty low-performance CPUs to stay within thermal (and cost) limits, but this is beginning to change. The ZBOX nano we’re looking at today carries on the recent trend of incorporating slightly higher performance parts as its Intel Celeron processor (the 2961Y) is based on Haswell, and not the Atom cores at the heart of so many of these small systems.
Another parallel to the Intel NUC is the requirement to bring your own memory and storage, and the ZBOX CI321 nano accepts a pair of DDR3 SoDIMMs and 2.5” storage drives. The Intel Celeron 2961Y processor supports up to 1600 MHz dual-channel DDR3L which allows for much higher memory bandwidth than many other mini-PCs, and the storage controller supports SATA 6.0 Gbps which allows for higher performance than the eMMC storage found in a lot of mini-PCs, depending on the drive you choose to install. Of course your mileage will vary depending on the components selected to complete the build, but it shouldn’t be difficult to build a reasonably fast system.
Subject: Systems | January 2, 2015 - 11:50 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: zotac, zbox pico, zbox nano, zbox, SFF, mini-pc, EN860, E-Series, CI321, ces 2015, CES
As processors continue to shrink and power consumption dwindles to tablet-like numbers with the newest notebook computers, the mini-PC segment just gets more interesting. While the tiniest of these (ZBOX pico, ECS LIVA) might not be suitable for any heavy desktop use, ZOTAC is trying to cater to all needs with their new lineup for CES this year.
The ZBOX CI321 nano
First up is a new addition to the C-series mini-PC family, the ZBOX CI321 nano. This is powered by a dual-core Intel processor with dual Gigabit LAN, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and supports dual-channel memory. The CI321 nano is passively cooled for completely silent operation.
Next we have the next-generation ZBOX E-series gaming mini-PC:
The ZBOX EN860
The EN860 system adds G-SYNC support, multi display support (via DisplayPort, HDMI, and DVI), and support for 4K @ 60 Hz (though at what kind of framerates we will have to wait and see).
A look at the back of the EN860
Finally we have the second edition of the tiny ZBOX pico, a mini-PC that resembles a small external hard drive:
The current-gen ZBOX pico
The new version of the pico is set to offer both AMD and Intel versions with dual-display support, Gigabit Ethernet, and USB 3.0.
No specifics on hardware components for these new ZBOX units just yet, but we'll keep you updated once the show begins and more details emerge.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!