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News

Zbox HD-ID11 Review

The Zbox attempts to take GPU acceleration to the next level with the powerful next-gen ION behind it. Russell Barnes puts it through its paces...

This article originally appeared in issue 89 of Linux User & Developer magazine. Subscribe and save more than 30% and receive our exclusive money back guarantee – click here to find out more.

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Tech specs:

zboxhd-id11-image1

CPU Intel Atom D510 (1.66 GHz, dual-core)
GPU Nvidia NG-ION (512MB DDR3)
Memory 1x 200-pin DDR2 SODIMM slot
Storage 2.5” SATA drive space
Networking 10/100/1000Mbps, 802.11n Wi-Fi
Audio 7.1-channel LPCM digital audio (HDMI),
Optical digital S/PDIF audio output
Video I/O HDMI, Dual-link DVI
Dimensions 188 x 188 x 44mm
Weight 1.6kg
Expansion 6x USB 2.0, 6-in-1
(SD/SDHC/MMC/MS/MS Pro/xD)
Other Tool-less chassis design

Pros: This tiny home theatre box is the perfect partner for streaming HD content to your TV, or as a mini Linux entertainment system
Cons: Fan noise and driver support are currently an issue, but these should improve with updated BIOS and driver releases in no time

The engineers at Zotac know a thing or two about putting together Home Theatre PC (HTPC) motherboards, and the Zotac MAG was an excellent first nettop from the company. While it scored well, it wasn’t perfect, and the Zbox aims to address many of those issues while injecting the latest technology from Intel and Nvidia in the process. The D510 dual-core Atom processor (which supports multithreading, offering a total of four threads) running at 1.6GHz introduces the extra processing power, while Nvidia’s next-gen ION-2 discrete GPU gives the Zbox access to the best GPU acceleration for video and general-purpose processing.

One of the key problems facing the MAG was its closed design – an almost impregnable chassis that was almost impossible to tweak or upgrade. This time Zotac has taken the barebones route, meaning you’ll need to invest in a hard drive and memory to finish off the system. The firm has also made it incredibly easy to get into. There are just two large thumb screws separating you from the business end of the Zbox – the bottom half of the chassis slides right off. The only downside to the design is that there’s only one DDR2 DIMM slot on offer (unlike the Zotac MAG, which had two stacked slots). This being the case, we opted for a 1GB DDR2-800 stick from Crucial. It’s not ideal, but 2GB is ample to cater for the multimedia capabilities the Zbox offers.

For the hard drive we plumped for Samsung’s 2.5” Spinpoint. We’re long-time supporters of the Samsung Spinpoint range since they tend to be among the quietest yet quickest drives in mass production. With its 5400rpm spindle speed it’s no match for the SpinPoint F1, but with a tight space to work with and sound being an issue in the HTPC market, the choice was spot on – it runs almost silently and stays cool even under the heavy duress of the tiny Zbox chassis. The total price of these extra purcahses, including fast delivery, was just over £80. Considering the quality of said components it was a real steal and a highly recommended combination for the Zbox as a result.

Jump to page two for our verdict…

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