CES 2018: Digital Storm Announces Project SPARK PCs

Subject: Systems | January 9, 2018 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: small form-factor, small form factor, project spark, Digital Storm, desktop pc

Digital Storm has just announced a new water-cooled, enthusiast PC, called Project SPARK. As the video shows, the device is about the width of a coffee mug and its handle, although it’s a bit deeper and taller. This cuts down on the amount of surface area the PC covers, which matters more than height for something that sits on a desk. The specs? Up to an Intel Core i7-8700k and an NVIDIA GTX 1080.

One of the interesting aspects of Project SPARK is that it is also user-upgradable. Digital Storm designed the system to have an accessible CPU and GPU, not just RAM and storage (but those are, of course, accessible too). Speaking of storage, the PC uses up to 3x M.2 SSDs. I should note that the PC uses MXM slot GPUs, so you can’t just plug in a triple-slot PCIe card in there… but, come on. You’re buying a small form factor PC.

The Digital Storm Project SPARK launches in Q2 with prices starting at $1299 USD (GTX 1060 SKU).

CES 2018: New ASUS Mini PCs, Chromebox, and Tinker Board

Subject: Systems | January 8, 2018 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: Tinker Board 3, tinker board, small form factor, SFF, PN40, PB40, mini PC, Chromebox 3, Chromebox, CES 2018, CES, asus

ASUS has four new small form-factor devices on display at CES, with mini-PC hardware as well as a new Chromebox 3 and Tinker Board 3. We start with the mini-PCs:

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ASUS PB40 mini PC

“The ASUS PB40 mini PC offers unparalleled connectivity with up to six USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C™ ports and a flexible I/O port design with VGA/DP/COM/HDMI support. Its metallic chassis houses the latest 8th Generation Intel Pentium® Silver processor for powerful performance. The PB40 is also offered in a fanless design with Intel Celeron® processors for completely silent operation. In addition to its compact design, the PB40 supports optional stackable modules such as optical drives to provide space-saving versatility for a wide range of usage scenarios.”

PN40.jpg

ASUS PN40 mini PC

“Powered by 8th Generation Intel Pentium Silver and Celeron processors, the new ASUS PN40 mini PC features a sliding bottom case design for easy upgrades. Compact and lightweight, it measures 114 x 114 x 49mm and weighs just 1.54lbs. With a wide range of connectivity options including USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C for fast data transmission, and a changeable I/O port for VGA or COM support, the PN40 is ideal for both home entertainment and business solutions.”

Next we have the third-generation Chromebox, ASUS's Chrome OS mini-PC:

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ASUS Chromebox 3

“ASUS Chromebox 3 is the latest addition to the ASUS Chromebox family and is powered by an 8th Generation Intel Core processor and DDR4-2400 memory for faster, smoother and more energy-efficient performance. It is equipped with a versatile USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port for quick data transfers, dual-band 802.11ac WiFi and Gigabit LAN for faster streaming along with DisplayPort and HDMI connectivity for 4K UHD playback of your favorite videos.”

Finally we have the new Tinker Board S, with "S" clearly meaning storage here as this new Tinker Board adds 16GB of onboard eMMC. This should make getting a project started that much easier as the previous design only offered a memory card slot, requiring a microSD card of at least 8GB.

Tinker Board S.jpg

ASUS Tinker Board S

“The new Tinker Board S features 2GB of RAM and 16GB of eMMC storage, while retaining the same board size and component placement as the original Tinker Board.”

Availability for all of these products - PB40, PN40, Chromebox 3, and Tinker Board S - is expected in the first half of 2018, with pricing to be announced at launch.

Source: ASUS

CES 2018: ASUS ROG Strix SKT T1 Hero Edition and G703 Gaming Laptops

Subject: Systems, Mobile | January 8, 2018 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: Strix SKT T1, strix, ROG, Republic of Gamers, notebook, laptop, gaming, g703, CES 2018, CES, asus

ASUS has a pair of laptops from their Republic of Gamers lineup at CES this year, and we'll begin with the ROG Strix SKT T1 Hero Edition, a limited-edition laptop which "marks the first collaboration between ROG and top eSports team SK Telecom T1". 

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In addition to bundled ROG/SK Telecom T1 co-branded swag (team jersey, mouse pad, posters) the laptop itself has been externally designed to reflect its affiliation. Hardware reflects its MOBA-inspired gaming approach, which includes an unspecified Intel Core i7 processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 GPU, and 120 Hz IPS display (which offers 100% sRGB coverage). The keyboard features N-key rollover, upgraded switches with "20-million-keystroke durability", and RGB lighting.

Next we have the massive 17-inch ROG G703, which was launched back in November, and is "the world's first gaming laptop with an ultra-smooth 17.3-inch Full HD wide-view display with NVIDIA G-SYNC technology for a 144Hz refresh rate" according to ASUS.

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The ROG G703 is powered by an Intel Core i7-7820HK processor which is factory-overclocked for speeds of up to 4.3 GHz, and no less than an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (with a top clock of 1974 MHz) handles gaming duties. The biggest part of the laptop (literally) is the display, as ASUS explains:

"High-refresh-rate displays provide the fluidity and responsiveness demanded by top eSports gamers and enthusiasts, so ROG also created ROG Strix Scar Edition with a 144Hz panel and GTX 1070 graphics. ASUS has also introduced high-refresh-rate displays into the mainstream gaming market with the FX503 laptop, which features a 15.6-inch Full HD display with a 120Hz refresh rate and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics."

The ROG G703 also offers built-in Xbox Wireless capability, freeing up USB ports when connecting Microsoft's gaming controllers.

The ROG G703 is available now with an MSRP starting at $3499, and ASUS says the ROG Strix SKT T1 Hero Edition will carry an MSRP of $1699 with availability in Q1 2018.

Source: ASUS

CES 2018: ASUS Announces New Consumer Laptops and AiO PCs

Subject: Systems, Mobile | January 8, 2018 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: ZenBook 13, notebook, laptop, desktop, CES 2018, CES, asus vivo, asus, all in one, AIO

The consumer PC annoucements from ASUS include a pair of new consumer notebooks with the ZenBook 13 (model UX331UAL) and ASUS Laptop X507, along with a pair of Vivo all-in-one desktops.

We start with the ZenBook 13 notebook, a lightweight (2.17 lb) with up to 15 hours of battery life according to ASUS.

ASUS ZenBook 13_Deep Dive Blue 03.jpg

ZenBook 13 (UX331UAL)

“The elegantly designed ZenBook 13 is a Windows 10 laptop that's ultralight and powerful. It's designed to provide users the ultimate in mobility, featuring a feather-light 2.17lb all-metal chassis and up to 15-hour battery life. And despite its compact design, ZenBook 13 doesn't compromise on performance. Its 8th Generation Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and 1TB PCIe SSD lets users blast through all their tasks with ease, and its Harman Kardon audio system delivers powerful immersive sound.”

Next is a more mainstream notebook option with the device called simply ASUS Laptop X507.

ASUS Laptop X507.jpg

ASUS Laptop X507

“Offering easy portability and uncompromising performance for daily computing, the stylish ASUS Laptop X507 is powered by a 7th Generation Intel Core i7 processor, NVIDIA GeForce MX110 graphics and a flexible, convenient dual-storage design. With its slim-bezel NanoEdge Full HD display for unbounded visuals and Windows 10, ASUS Laptop X507 is the ideal laptop for daily computing and entertainment.”

A pair of AiO desktops are next up, with 27 and 22 inch options.

ASUS Vivo AiO V272_1.jpg

Vivo AiO V272

“Vivo AiO V272 features an 8th Generation Intel Core i7 processor and NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics for uncompromising performance. The 27-inch multitouch display has a wide 100% sRGB color gamut and 178˚ wide-view technology for truly great visuals and combines with the ASUS SonicMaster audio system with its bass-reflex speakers to offer a superb entertainment experience. The ASUS ZenAnywhere app gives users effortless remote access, and turns Vivo AiO V272 into a personal cloud storage center. Windows 10 provides a secure and familiar computing experience, including Cortana’s voice recognition capability for more efficient and productive computing."

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ASUS Vivo AiO V222

“Vivo AiO V222 has a frameless 22-inch Full HD display that features edge-to-edge visuals. Combined with its advanced ASUS SonicMaster bass-reflex speaker system, exclusive ASUS Splendid and Tru2Life Video technologies, Vivo AiO V222 delivers immersive visuals with crystal-clear audio for the ultimate entertainment experience. The ASUS ZenAnywhere app gives users effortless remote access, and turns Vivo AiO V222 into a personal cloud storage center. Windows 10 provides a secure and familiar computing experience, including Cortana’s voice recognition capability for productive computing.”

All four of these new systems are set for release in the first half of 2018, with pricing to be announced at launch.

Source: ASUS

CES 2018: ASUS ROG Strix GL12 Gaming Desktop Announced

Subject: Systems | January 8, 2018 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: CES, ROG, nvidia, Intel, GTX 1080, geforce, coffee lake, asus, CES 2018

ASUS has just announced a high-end gaming desktop: the ROG Strix GL12. It looks like it will be a standard mid-tower form factor with a highly stylized design and, of course, RGB lights. They will pair with Aura Sync, so you make your case match your keyboard and pretty much whatever else you have from ASUS with RGB lights in it.

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The main selling feature of the system, however, is the factory-overclocked Coffee Lake CPU – up to six cores at 4.8 GHz. You can also pair this with an NVIDIA GTX 1080. At first, I found it odd that they didn’t go up to the GTX 1080 Ti given the rest of the system, although I guess they would need to produce stock ahead of time, and it would be risky to have too many enthusiast parts sitting in a warehouse. They don’t state the maximum configurable RAM, but Coffee Lake maxes out at 64 GB so we know that it won’t be more than that. It all depends on whether ASUS wants to make a 32 GB or a 64 GB SKU.

The ASUS ROG Strix GL12 gaming desktop will launch in April. Pricing TBA.

Source: ASUS

CES 2018: Intel Introduces Kaby Lake-G Powered Enthusiast NUC

Subject: Systems | January 7, 2018 - 08:14 PM |
Tagged: Vega M, NUC 8 Enthusiast, nuc, mini PC, kaby lake-g, Intel, core i7, CES 2018, CES, amd, 8th generation core

Intel has announced a new imagining of their high-end NUC mini-PC called the NUC 8 Enthusiast. The most significant difference between this and the previous high-end NUCs from Intel is that this one doesn't rely on Intel's integrated graphics as AMD Vega M graphics are onboard, and along with them the promise of some legitimate gaming muscle.

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What exactly is under the hood? There are two variants, with the NUC8i7HVK (which offers 100W AMD RX Vega M graphics) and NUC8i7HNK (with 65W AMD Vega M graphics). Here first are the specs for the NUC8i7HVK:

  • GPU and GFX: 8th Generation Intel® Core™ i7-8809G  3.1 GHz to 4.2 GHz Turbo, Quad Core, 8 MB cache, 100W Radeon™ RX Vega M GH graphics, 1063 MHz – 1190 MHz Unlocked and VR-capable
  • RAM: Dual channel DDR4-2400+ SODIMMs, 1.2V, 32GB maximum
  • Storage: 2x M.2 22x42/80 (key M) slots for SATA3 or PCIe x4 Gen3 NVMe or AHCI SSD, RAID-0 and RAID-1 capable
  • SDXC slot
  • Connectivity: 2x rear Thunderbolt™ 3 (40 Gbps) and USB 3.1 Gen2 (10 Gbps) and DisplayPort 1.2 via USB-C™ connector Front USB 3.1 Gen2 via USB-C™ and front USB type-A connector Front charging USB 3.0, 4x rear USB 3.0, 2x internal USB 3.0 and 2x USB 2.0 via headers Front Consumer Infrared port
  • Video Outputs: Front and rear HDMI 2.0a (4K 60Hz, HDR) connectors DisplayPort 1.3 via 2x rear Mini DisplayPort ports, and 2x rear Thunderbolt™ USB-C™ ports All ports support HDCP 2.2
  • Networking:  2x Intel® 10/100/1000 Mbps (i219-LM and i210-AT) Ethernet ports Intel® Wireless-AC 8265 M.2 22x30 card, IEEE 802.11ac 2x2 + Bluetooth v4.2, internal antennas
  • Audio: Up to 7.1 multichannel digital audio via HDMI or DisplayPort signals 3.5mm front headset jack, 3.5mm rear speaker / TOSLINK combo jack
  • Enclosure:  Metal and plastic with replaceable lid, Kensington lock with base security
  • Dimensions: 221 x 142 x 39 mm (1.2 L)
  • Internal Headers:  Common I/O header with Front Panel, CEC, 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB2.0 signals
  • Power Adapter: 19V DC 230W power supply with replaceable AC cords
  • Other Features: 
    • Replaceable lid with customizable RGB LED illumination and front panel status RGB LEDs
    • Quad beam-forming mic array
    • VESA mounting plate included
    • Three-Year Warranty

That Core i7 8809G processor listed above is also unlocked, allowing for whatever overclocking might be possibile in this small form-factor. The differences with the NUC8i7HNK are strictly in the CPU/GPU area:

  • 8th Generation Intel® Core™ i7-8705G  3.1 GHz to 4.1 GHz Turbo, Quad Core, 8 MB cache, 65W Radeon™ RX Vega M GL graphics, 931 MHz – 1011 MHz

Besides the new Kaby Lake-G chips there is a lot more I/O in this NUC than we saw with the "Skull Canyon" enthusiast model (NUC6i7KYK), and here the taller design (39 mm vs. 28 mm) doesn't hurt.

NUC8i7HVK Back Panel.jpg

With the bottom half of the rear panel reserved for cooling there is still room for 2x Thunderbolt 3, 2x mini DisplayPort, a full size HDMI, dual LAN, 4x USB 3.0 ports, and 3.5 mm audio (with optical). Up front there is a USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port, two more USB 3.0 ports (one charging), another full-size HDMI, SDXC card slot, and a second 3.5 mm audio.

NUC8i7HVK Front Panel.jpg

Just how effectively this small device can cope with the demands of a 65W or 100W GPU - and potentially overclocked quad-core CPU - remains to be seen, but the thicker chassis compared to that previous "Skull Canyon" NUC suggests this has been accounted for.

So how much will this enthusiast-class NUC cost you? MSRP for the 65W GPU version is $799, and the 100W GPU version is $999. Availability is set for March 2018.

Source: Intel

Don't unwrap a box this Christmas; build one!

Subject: Systems | December 19, 2017 - 01:34 PM |
Tagged: system build, guide

Just barely in time for Amazon delivery comes a holiday system build guide from OCC.  The guide is based on your target resolution, with recommendations for 1080p, 1440p and 4k, with a final page offering up a few alternative component choices.  The current crypto-craze makes choosing a GPU more interesting than it should be, as we are still seeing high prices and low availability but as it is not likely to go away in the near future it is something you have to plan for.  Check out their guide, as well as our Hardware Leaderboard before you start shopping for components.

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"This build guide is focused solely gaming and getting the best "bang for the buck" so to speak. A byproduct of this are things like RGB lighting and color theme builds go out the window due to budget restraints. On the low end, every dollar saved from an unnecessary, flashy setup can be put to better use. However, nothing is set in stone and you are free to adjust and spend a few dollars more to purchase things more to your liking."

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MSI's Aegis 3, a perfect gateway system for console gamers

Subject: Systems | October 30, 2017 - 02:36 PM |
Tagged: msi, aegis 3

The MSI Aegis 3 has a small footprint, including the base it stands 17.05x14.81x6.69" (43.3x37.6x17cm) though it is wider when you extend the ears to hang your headphones off of.  The inside is very well laid out for such a tiny pre-built system, The Tech Report could easily access all the components in the system for potential upgrades or even simple cleaning.  This ~$1000 machine is perfect for someones first PC as it ships with a DS4200 keyboard and DS-B1 gaming mouse, leaving only the monitor to purchase separately and the inclusion of a 16GB Intel Optane M.2 Cache Module will impress them with the speed.  The Tech Report did have some suggestions for improvements on the VR hookups but overall found this to be a great introduction to the PC gaming world for a first timer.

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"MSI's Aegis 3 starts with a compelling enough spec sheet for the budding gamer: a Core i7-7700 CPU, a GeForce GTX 1060 3GB graphics card, and 16GB of RAM. We spent some time with the Aegis 3 to see whether a 16GB Optane cache and a 2TB hard drive offer an SSD-like user experience in this NAND-starved era."

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Detachable PC ... the HP Spectre x2 and EliteBook x2

Subject: Systems | October 20, 2017 - 03:08 PM |
Tagged: spectre x2, EliteBook x2, hp

The HP ZBook x2 is a workstation class PC with a detachable screen, similiar to the Surface but significantly more powerful.  Depending on the model you prefer it will contain a Kaby Lake or Coffee Lake i7 or i5 processor and either a SATA or NVME PCIe SSD.  All models come with 32 GB DDR4-2133 and a Quadro M620 GPU. 

HP ZBook x2_GroupShot_V3_preview.jpeg

When detached, the batteryless Wacom EMR based HP pen allows you to draw up your designs on the fly on its 4K screen, for more serious work the ZBook x2 can power up to five HD displays or a pair of 4K monitors from its dock.  Graphic designers can opt for a model which comes with a optional 10 bit, billion colour HP DreamColor display that is capable of 100% Adobe RGB.

HP ZBook x2_FrontRight_Open_preview.jpeg

AS VEGAS, NV, October 18, 2017 - Today at AdobeMAX, HP will showcase the world’s most powerful detachable PC designed to solve the performance and mobility needs of artists, designers and digital imaging professionals who need to push Adobe Creative Cloud and other professional applications to the limit.

The performance of the HP ZBook x2, the world’s first detachable workstation, increases productivity and allows digital creators and storytellers the freedom to work when and where inspiration strikes. HP’s reinvention of detachable PCs began earlier this year with the introduction of the HP Spectre x2 and the HP Elite x2. Today’s introduction of the HP ZBook x2 completes HP’s trifecta with its most powerful detachable solution targeted for the creative community. With this new offering, HP is extending its PC leadership by pioneering a new era for detachable PCs that offer superb performance, elegance and efficiency.

“As the world’s most powerful and first detachable PC workstation, there is no device better suited to turn the vision of artists and designers into reality,” said Xavier Garcia, vice president and general manager, HP Z Workstations, HP Inc.

“With the HP ZBook x2,we are delivering the perfect tool to accelerate the creative process with unprecedented power, performance and natural ease of use. This device will make it easier than ever for creators to do what they do best bring inspiring new ideas to life and enrich the world around us.”

Liberating Digital Creativity
The HP ZBook x2 allows designers to effortlessly create with quad-core Intel Core processors, twice the memory of any other detachable PC and NVIDIA Quadro Graphics that deliver 73 percent higher graphics performance compared to the Surface Pro. A quiet, dual fan active cooling system is designed to dissipate heat from the powerful graphics card and processor.

To better meet the needs of the creative community, including Adobe users, HP also developed customizable, application aware HP Quick Keys, to provide artists with 18 time saving shortcuts. "At Adobe, our goal is to accelerate creativity. Creative Cloud is the platform that enables us to deliver powerful innovation in our apps and cloud based services supported by Adobe Sensei with artificial intelligence at the heart of every customer experience,” said Mala Sharma, vice president and general manager, Creative Cloud Product, Marketing and Community. “Adobe is thrilled with our collaboration with HP, which we know will further fuel creativity and give Creative Cloud members more power and freedom to create wherever inspiration strikes.”

Today, many creative professionals use multiple devices such as a MacBook Pro plus an iPad to accomplish the same tasks that can be done on the HP ZBook x2. Knowing that ultimate mobility is important, HP created a single device that delivers the same performance capabilities from inking to docked mode. HP’s most versatile detachable to date, the HP ZBook x2 operates in four modes: laptop, detached, docked and tablet.

In laptop mode, the HP ZBook x2 is a powerful mobile workstation with a keyboard leveraged from the HP ZBook Studio. In detached mode, it allows users to create on the tablet with HP’s most accurate and expressive pen while still having full access to all of their shortcut keys with the Bluetooth enabled keyboard off to the side. In docked mode, the HP ZBook x2 can power two additional 4K displays or five total displays. In tablet mode, it maintains full graphics performance allowing users to capture ideas with powerful NVIDIA 3D graphics. Using HP’s most natural pen with the HP ZBook x2, users can create without interruption as the pen never needs to be charged. The batteryless, HP designed pen based on Wacom EMR technology, responds instantly to every nuance of the artist’s hand for natural motion. The HP ZBook x2 offers 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity with multidirectional tilt capabilities and includes a dedicated eraser.

As a member of the world’s most secure and manageable mobile workstation family, the HP ZBook x2 features HP SureStart Gen3 for BIOS protection, TPM 2.0 for hardware based encryption to secure credentials, secure authentication methods through the Smart Card Reader and HP’s Client Security Suite Gen3 to protect data, device and identity, including facial recognition and fingerprint reader.

HP ZBook x2 Highlights
The HP ZBook x2 embodies the intersection of mobility and performance in a fully machined, aluminum and die cast magnesium body starting at just 3.64 pounds and 14.6mm thin when in tablet mode, and 4.78 pounds and 20.3mm in laptop mode. The HP ZBook x2 has a stunning 14” diagonal, 4K multitouch display with an optional 10-bit, one billion color HP DreamColor display calibrated to 100 percent of Adobe RGB. The HP ZBook x2 has the world’s most advanced detachable PC display and includes an antiglare touchscreen allowing users to immerse themselves while working in any lighting condition.

At the desk, it can power dual 4K displays from the HP ZBook Dock with Thunderbolt3. This detachable PC hasup to 10 hours of battery life for maximum productivity and ultrafast recharge (50 percent in just 30 minutes. The HP ZBook x2 offers up to 4.2GHz of Intel Turbo Boost, 32GB RAM over dual channels for more responsiveness under heavier workloads like complex layering in Photoshop.

The model’s HP Z Turbo Drive storage is up to 6X faster than SATA SSD and up to 21X faster than traditional HDD storage. The HP ZBook x2 offers up to 2TB of local PCIe storage and incorporates a full sized SD card slot, perfect for professional photographers. Using the dock or Thunderbolt3 ports on the HP ZBook x2, it can transfer large files from cameras, external storage, phones and other peripherals.

Designed to go anywhere and handle the toughest workloads, the HP ZBook x2 mobile workstation is designed to pass MIL-STD810G testing. The HP ZBook x2 also undergoes dozens of tests for certification and optimized performance with the industry’s leading software providers like Adobe and Autodesk.

HP ZBook x2 Pricing and Availability
HP ZBook x2 is scheduled for availability in December starting at $1,749.

 

Source: HP

Zotac steps up their Zbox game

Subject: Systems | October 3, 2017 - 05:42 PM |
Tagged: zotac, zbox, Magnus EN1080K, GeForce GTX 1080, i7-7700, SFF, water cooler

The newest Zbox from Zotac is also the most powerful one they have made, which does make it a bit of a different beast than other Zotac SFF products.  With an i7-7700 paired with a GTX 1080, along with 16GB of DDR4-2400 and a WD Black 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD the Magnus offers more power than you find in many a mid-range system.  The heat produced in the tight confines of the system, 8.9x8x5" (23 x 20 x 13cm), is handled by a custom built watercooling system which cools both the CPU and GPU.  This does make the system significantly larger than previous Zbox products and it is much more power hungry, with two power adapters required to run it.  The Tech Report loved the performance but did encounter some significant issues with the Zbox, which they overcame with quick and effective support from Zotac.  Check this one out for the impressive build design as well as it's impressive gaming abilities.

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"Zotac's Zbox Magnus EN1080K pairs Intel's Core i7-7700 CPU with a GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card in an impressively dense liquid-cooled package. We ran some of our favorite games on this system to see how it stacks up in the small-form-factor pantheon."

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