ZOTAC ZBOX AD04 Plus Review

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ZOTAC’s lunchbox-sized ZBOX computers offer convenience and flexibility without taking up too much desk space, and the most recent models are fairly powerful too. The ZBOX can also make itself quite useful when connected to a TV as a powerful digital media player, letting you put your digital movies and Web content on a bigger screen. It can fit quite neatly into a TV cabinet alongside your cable set-top box or game console, and has all the right connections for integration into a home theater setup too.

Design and Build
The computer itself can stand unobtrusively on any desk, but you also get a bracket to mount it to a wall or the back of an LCD monitor. The ZBOX is small and flexible, so although you would still have to put up with a number of wires running around your desk, you can upgrade and replace individual parts more easily than with an all-in-one PC. You’ll also have the advantage of being able to use an old monitor you might have lying around, or choose one of your preferred size and budget. In operation, the box is surprisingly quiet, though the glowing ring on its lid casts a rather obtrusive green light no matter which way the box is placed.

Zotac ZBOX AD04

Zotac ZBOX AD04

 

The package includes an HDMI to DVI dongle, though the more common VGA standard is not supported without an additional adapter, which is not bundled. In addition, ZOTAC throws in a handy Windows Media Center remote and matching USB receiver. The receiver can be positioned away from the ZBOX itself, which is handy if you decide to tuck it away behind a monitor, but occupies one USB port when it could have been integrated instead. Unfortunately, an external laptop-style power brick takes away from the simple overall design, and you’ll have to buy your own copy of Windows or arrange for your own operating system, and install it yourself

Features
The retail unit comes with a dual-core AMD E-450 CPU (with integrated Radeon HD 6320 graphics). Two thumbscrews allow the top to pop off, revealing the user-replaceable 2GB of DDR3 RAM (in the form of laptop style SO-DIMMs) and 320 GB hard drive inside. Around the box’s edges you’ll find two USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, a multi-format card reader, optical SP/DIF audio out as well as regular audio in and out jacks, Ethernet, a Wi-Fi antenna, and HDMI as well as DisplayPort sockets. As we quickly discovered when we began our benchmark tests, the lack of a preloaded OS is a huge disadvantage.

Good set of connectors

Good set of connectors

 

Installing Windows 7 required us to dig out an external DVD drive, which not everyone will be lucky to have lying around. While it’s possible in theory to install an OS from a USB pen drive, creating one is a fairly long drawn-out process that will need to be done on another PC beforehand. The ZBOX’s drivers also come on a CD, which is odd considering the lack of an optical drive. An inexpensive pen drive could
have held all the necessary software. Still, all features worked just fine as soon as drivers were installed.

Performance
As expected, the PCMark and 3DMark vantage scores reflected the weak CPU and strong GPU cores of the Llano processor. While other ZBOX models are available with Intel Atom CPUs and even mobile Core i3s, the AMD platform is most notable for its comparatively beefier graphics capabilities. The integrated Radeon HD 6320 easily matches low-end graphics cards that used to cost a few thousand rupees, so you won’t have trouble decoding HD video files or even playing games at moderate quality settings.

Zotac ZBOX AD04

Zotac ZBOX AD04

 

Once again, we miss a Blu-ray drive that could have rounded out the media PC capabilities, but ZOTAC does have other models that fit the bill. The ray tracing and 3D rendering tests showed that the ZBOX AD04 Plus still no high-end gaming PC and is obviously not well suited as a power user’s workstation, but it will do quite well for everyday and even media intensive tasks.

Verdict
At Rs.23,900, the ZOTAC ZBOX AD04 is a good solution, if you're looking for compact PC for basic use. The onboard graphics card s good a bit of light gaming or off-loading Full HD video from the CPU. The bundled remote also makes it a perfect choice for an HTPC. The only major sore point here is the lack of an OS, so it's not exactly 'ready to use' out-of-the-box. 


Published Date: Apr 13, 2012 12:17 pm | Updated Date: Apr 13, 2012 12:17 pm