Zotac International, a manufacturer of graphics cards and motherboards, has upgraded its mini-PC series with Nvidia GT 640 graphics card to boost power and performance.
I had reviewed their earlier models – Nano XS AD13 Plus and Nano XS AD11 – and was quite impressed with its performance. Zotac has shrunk a desktop CPU into a mini-PC.
The Zbox ID45 Plus is bigger than the Nano series and is powered by Intel core i3 dual-core Ivybridge processor running at 1.9Ghz coupled with 4GB of RAM and 500GB hard disk drive.
In terms of hardware, this is a bit outdated as Haswell mobile i3 chips are available in the market and if Zotac had used a Haswell chipset, the performance would have been much faster.
The main drawback of the device is that it does not come pre-installed with any operating system. Users can install any operating system, including Linux, Windows 7 or Windows 8.
If you are not keen on the additional cost of an operating system, users can install OpenElec — a free XMBC-based distribution — from the company’s website. It is a Linux-based system that is built to deliver a set-top box-like experience and easily installs on Zbox. It supports hardware-accelerated high-definition video playback of all formats.
I am not very fond of Linux, so I installed Windows 8 on this device. To install the software you need to have an external optical drive. Last two times they gave the drivers for the device on a CD but this time it has come with a CD and also on a USB drive.
If you don’t have an optical drive, you need to transfer the software to a USB drive with another computer. Setting up the device takes time and lot of procedures, but once done, it is easy to continue.
The NVIDIA GeForce GT 640 graphics with 2GB of RAM enhances the video playback capabilities with high-quality HD processing and 4K or ultra high-definition video decoding capabilities.
I did not have either a 4K TV or a 4K content to test the capability.
Users can stream content and easily organise their digital media to turn the Zbox into a media centre.
The box comes with a Vesa mount to fix the device on the back of your computer and a stand holder to keep it like a router.
Another advantage of this device is that users can easily swap hard disk drive (SSD) for solid state drive or add more RAM by removing the two thumbscrews on the side panels.
It is an ideal machine for a bedroom PC or as an expensive media centre. Since it can be fixed on the back of your computer and as All-in-One PC concept is gaining traction, it can be kept in the living room with a high-end display monitor and save desktop space.
There’s the receiver for the onboard infrared which allows you to use a remote if you’re using it as a media PC but remote is not included in the box as Zotac had included in its earlier devices.
Gaming on this machine was a breeze as it has a dedicated graphics card with 2GB of RAM. I installed Asphalt 8 and Halo: Spartan Assault and it played effortlessly without any lag but the device gets warm over a period of playing. It is natural as the machine is small amid having enough heat ventilators on the sides.
I downloaded some Full HD movies and audios and it played with ease. The device has a built-in eight channel digital audio and the sounds are rich and clear without losing any details.
Regarding connectivity, it has WiFi, four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI output, two Gigabit LAN ports, 4-in-1 card reader, digital mini-Optical S/PDIF, one DVI port, one headphone, two antenna connectors (WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0) and one microphone jack. It is priced at Dh1,899. Consumers can extend the warranty to three years upon registration with invoice details within 28 days of purchase.
• Supports 4K resolutions
• Very good options for connecting accessories
• Options to add SSD and RAM
• Stylish design
• Value for money
• Lack of analogue audio output on the back
• The plastic panels on the sides do easily flex
• Remote control not included
• No pre-installed operating system
• Should have used Haswell processor