ZOTAC ZBOX PLUS ID90 Review

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Brand: ZOTAC
Model: ZBOX PLUS ID90
RRP: £450 (At time of the review)

Today I am going to be taking a look at another small form factor PC from ZOTAC. It’s called the ZBOX PLUS and it is a powerhouse for its size. Inside is an Intel Core i7-3770T which is a quad core CPU with eight threads as well as a myriad of other features such as 802.11n Wi-Fi, USB 3.0, dual gigabit Ethernet ports and much, much more. This machine is clearly orientated at someone who wants a HTPC but something with a little more grunt in the CPU department.

I recently reviewed the ZBOX Nano XS3 PLUS which was a true miniature PC that could output full 1080P video without any problems. This machine should have no issues whatsoever due to the processor being far superior which means that transcoding full 1080P video on the fly should be a walk in the park. Baring in mind that this is supposed to be a small-form factor PC, and that it is only 18.5cm x 18.5cm in size; just how well will it perform?

Model ZBOX-ID90-PLUS-U
Assembly Configuration All-in-one
CPU Integrated Intel Core i7 3770T 2.5 GHz (Up to 3.7 GHz, Turbo) Quad-Core
Chipset Intel H61 Express
Cooler Type Fan
Onboard Video Intel HD Graphics 4000
Onboard Audio High-definition analog stereo
Optical Digital S/PDIF output
8-channel via HDMI
Onboard LAN 2 x 10/100/1000Mbps, 2 x WiFi 802.11n/g/b, Bluetooth 4.0
Memory Size 4GB (Up to 16GB)
Memory Slots 2 x 204-pin SO-DIMM
Memory Type DDR3 1600 SO-DIMM
SATA 1 x 2.5-inch SATA 3.0 Gb/s
Hard Drive 500GB 5400RPM HDD
Video Ports 1 x HDMI, 1 x DVI
DVI 1 x DVI
HDMI 1 x HDMI 1.4a
USB Ports 2 x USB 3.0
2 x USB 2.0
Power Connector DC19V
Package Contents 1 x ZOTAC ZBOX ID90 Plus
1 x MCE compatible remote with 2 CR2032 batteries
1 x USB IR receiver
2 x WiFi antenna
1 x VESA mount with 4 mounting screws
1 x Stand
1 x DVI-to-VGA adapter
1 x AC adapter
1 x Power cord
1 x Warranty card
1 x User manual
1 x Quick Install Guide
1 x Driver disc
Dimensions 13.19in x 10.43in x 3.74in – 355mm x 265mm x 95mm
Weight 5.7600
Warranty 1-Year Standard

 

The ZOTAC ZBOX PLUS comes in a black box with subtle bits of orange showing up to highlight certain aspects of the product. On the front of the box there is a picture of the system itself and along the bottom are the features such as Bluetooth, dual gigabit LAN ports, 802.11n Wi-Fi, the remote control, VESA mount as well as the quick charge USB capabilities. Also included is a 500GB hard drive and 4GB of memory. I’m surprised that there is no SSD included in this system.

 

Flipping over the box gives us a brief insight into the system itself and it tells you about the customisable features. You can change the hard drive for something which would suit you better, so a bigger drive or an SSD, and you can also add in memory if you wish to do so. However, this system does come with a 500GB hard drive and 4GB of memory preinstalled. With regards to the images, they basically tell you what ports are on the system. It’s a simple design and but the black and orange colour scheme will most definitely catch your eyes in the store.

 

Opening up the box reveals the system itself which is levitated between two pieces of antistatic foam. The foam should ensure that the system is adequately protected during shipping and that it is not in any risk of getting a direct beating from the postal services. Underneath is also the mounting which you can use to stand the system up with or use it as the VESA mounting bracket if you wish. The remainder of the accessories reside inside the black box to the left.

Within the accessories box, you will find a multitude of useful items. Those items include:

1 x MCE compatible remote with 2 CR2032 batteries
1 x USB IR receiver
2 x WiFi antenna
1 x VESA mount with 4 mounting screws
1 x Stand
1 x DVI-to-VGA adapter
1 x AC adapter
1 x Power cord
1 x Warranty card
1 x User manual
1 x Quick Install Guide
1 x Driver disc

First impressions of the ZBOX PLUS are that the system would fit in well with a modern décor. It has a black top and bottom with a silver middle which in my eyes in a very nice combination. The one issue with the top is that it is extremely shiny and it shows up every single speck of dust you can imagine. Fingerprints are obviously something else which show up but it’s unlikely that you will be touching it all that often anyway.

 

On the front of the system, we have a number of different connectivity options available. Going from left to right, we have the headphone and microphone ports which are followed by a card reader, a single USB 3.0 port, the Wi-Fi and HDD activity lights, infrared receiver and finally the power switch.

 

The back is slightly more packed with ports, as you would probably expect. So in the same fashion and going from left to right we have a Wi-Fi antenna, a S/PDIF optical out port, two Gigabit Ethernet ports that are controlled by an Intel controller, two USB 2.0 ports followed by a DVI-D port, a HDMI (version 1.4a capable) port, another Wi-Fi antenna and finally the power connection for the system.

 

Gaining access to the internals of the system is very straightforward. There are two thumb screws located on the side of this system and removing them allows the back plate to slide off with minimal effort.

 

Once you have opened up the system, you will gain access to the hard drive and memory which you can change if you wish to do so. The hard drive is mounted above the memory in a tray that is secured with a single thumb screw. In order to gain access to the memory, all you need to do is remove the thumb screw and pull the hard drive out.

ZOTAC ZBOX PLUS
CPU: Intel Core i7-3770T (4C/8T)
Motherboard: Custom H61 motherboard
RAM: 1x DDR3-1600MHz 4GB CAS 11
Graphics: Intel HD4000

Methodology:

All benchmarks will be run on a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit that is fully up-to-date with Windows Updates to ensure that the performance reflects a real-world scenario and not that of a tweaked benchmarking system.

Benchmarks:

ATTO – HDD/SSD Testing
AIDA64 – CPU & Memory Tests
CINEBENCH 11.5
PCMark 7
SiSoftware SANDRA 2013 – CPU & Memory Tests
X264 HD Version 5.0.1

This simple integer benchmark focuses on the branch prediction capabilities and the misprediction penalties of the CPU. It finds the solutions for the classic “Queens problem” on a 10 by 10 sized chessboard. At the same clock speed theoretically the processor with the shorter pipeline and smaller misprediction penalties will attain higher benchmark scores. For example — with HyperThreading disabled — the Intel Northwood core processors get higher scores than the Intel Prescott core based ones due to the 20-step vs 31-step long pipeline. CPU Queen Test uses integer MMX, SSE2 and SSSE3 optimizations.

The ATTO Disk Benchmark performance measurement tool is compatible with Microsoft Windows. Measure your storage systems performance with various transfer sizes and test lengths for reads and writes. Several options are available to customize your performance measurement including queue depth, overlapped I/O and even a comparison mode with the option to run continuously. Use ATTO Disk Benchmark to test any manufacturers RAID controllers, storage controllers, host bus adapters (HBAs), hard drives and SSD drives and notice that ATTO products will consistently provide the highest level of performance to your storage.

CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software.It measure sequential reads/writes speed,measure random 512KB, 4KB, 4KB (Queue Depth=32) reads/writes speed,select test data (Random, 0Fill, 1Fill),provide theme support and Multi-Language support.

It is important to find out how well the network performs on a mini-PC (as well as any other) as they will most likely be used for streaming data, where a fast network is very important.

PCMark 7 is a complete PC benchmarking solution for Windows 7 and Windows 8. It includes 7 tests combining more than 25 individual workloads covering storage, computation, image and video manipulation, web browsing and gaming. Specifically designed for the full range of PC hardware from netbooks and tablets to notebooks and desktops, PCMark 7 offers complete Windows PC performance testing for home and business use.

SiSoftware Sandra (the System Analyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software.

All in all, I would say that this is definitely a very powerful machine in a small package. It has a powerful quad core processor with eight threads from the third generation of Intel Core processors and it also has an onboard GPU capable of playing full 1080P video with ease.

General usage of this system was generally a positive experience and I cannot say that I found anything wrong with it at all. However, there are a few things which may be a slight oversight in my eyes. Coupling such a system with an SSD rather than a 500GB HDD would’ve been a better choice in my eyes. Users which use this system will most likely have their data stored elsewhere on the network and that makes the 500GB hard drive a little useless. Faster boot up times and generally a faster, more smooth experience within the operating system is what I’d personally opt for.

The RAM in this system is plenty for most tasks at 4GB, although I can’t help but feel that this system would have benefitted from dual channel memory. I know that the HD4000 benefits from this by upto 20% in some circumstances which only means one thing – increased GPU performance. It is up to the user to add more RAM should they feel the need to do so though.

Anyway, back to the positive side of the fence, lets talk about the processor performance in this system. Obviously being a mini-PC, you would probably not expect it to house a full blown i7 in there, would you? Well, the secret to it is that the CPU is an ultralow power chip. It has a maximum TDP of 45 watts which is laptop territory power consumption. As this system features an Intel Core i7-3770T, I feel that this system is plenty capable of doing video encoding, should the user require such a task to be performed. It actually does very well and I was pleasantly surprised with its performance and temperatures during such extreme and extended load periods.

The other advantage of this being a low powered CPU, other than it not using much power and staying cool too, is that the fan doesn’t have to speed up very much at all to keep the temperatures in line. Under a maximum loading of both the CPU and GPU at the same time, the temperatures were very reasonable and the system remained very close to silent. The fan did not exceed 1450RPM at any period during my testing which means that even though it was right next to me in my test area, I could barely hear it – perfect!

Whether you wish to use this as a HTPC or a low powered yet powerful miniature PC for different needs such as a work machine, it would suit either role perfectly. I was thoroughly impressed with how powerful this system was. When I originally went over the specifications, it stated that it was a dual core which turned out to be a quad core, so I was pleasantly surprised in that aspect.

To finish off, I’ll quickly touch on the units pricing. It is roughly £450 but you do get a lot of power for the money. The processor takes up around half of that budget alone, so when you consider everything else you get in the machine, it is quite good value for money too. Due to this reason, I feel that it is well worthy of our performance award due to the sheer power within such a small system.

 

  • Performance
  • Design
  • Value

Summary

To summarise, the ZOTAC ZBOX PLUS (ID90) is a very capable little system. It has a third-gen i7-3770T which runs at 2.5GHz with the capability to go up to 3.7GHz with turbo. There’s 4GB of RAM onboard which users can expand up to 16GB should they wish. The only slight downfall (in my eyes) is that there is a HDD used rather than an SSD. Other than that, top work ZOTAC! I’d highly recommend this to anyone looking for a very capable day-to-day mini system or as a HTPC.

4.5

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1 COMMENT

  1. […] ZOTAC is a name we’re certainly all familiar with due to their graphics card offerings and once upon a time, niche high-end ITX offerings before they became a mainstream focus of motherboard manufacturers. ZOTAC have taken their low-volume know-how and applied this to their ZBOX range as we covered last year in the form of the ZBOX ID90. […]

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