Zotac has made quite a name for itself with its mini-PC products.  The ZBOX offering aims at bringing an affordable Blu-Ray equipped HTPC option to the masses for some time now. Look no further than our review of the Zotac ZBOX HD-ID11 to see what the fuss has been about.

Over the last 12 months, however, the relevance of the Atom/ION combination has been steadily diminishing.  The release of Clarkdale and Arrandale based systems have bared many of the shortcomings of the ION platform. It is extremely surprising to find a product refresh this late into 2010 willing to still utilize the Atom/ION2 combination.  Zotac has released two versions of this box, the HD-ID33BR-U and the HD-ID34BR-U.  The units are identical in terms of the system platform and specifications although the HD-ID34BR-U comes with a few extras, which I will touch upon further on in the review.    

On a technical level, the Intel Atom, paired with Nvidia’s Ion, falls short of some of the other solutions out there. However, the Zotac ZBOX HD-ID34, makes a different kind of statement., realized as soon as one pulls it out of the box. With a slim form factor and light weight, but solid feel, the HD-ID34BR-U has more of a resemblance to other elegant home theater components than the more utilitarian media streaming boxes and HTPCs released in the past.  What Zotac has done here, is take a page out of Apple’s book and designed a HTPC with a styling that may draw in consumers regardless of the hardware found within.  Most of the visitors I’ve had over since receiving the review unit did not realize that this thing was a PC. Instead they thought it was an impressive blu-ray player, which in many ways, it is.

Specification and Design
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  • ProDigit - Tuesday, October 19, 2010 - link

    1- you get 2.0 channels just like most stereo's. The audio plays back just like your laptop or home pc.

    2- It's easy to install an OS. Worst case you get Ubuntu or another Linux on it, which costs you nothing next to a 30 minutes install!
    Besides there are EeePc versions of WinXP available on the black market for free.

    3- you can get a bluetooth remote, or get a USB-IR receiver and install that; though there's little use for IR when you are planning on mounting this behind the TV.
    Bluetooth works even in a couple of rooms next to the TV room, and is much better!

    4- pics say enough, it's a laptop mobo with a desktop cpu and an nvidia graphics card crammed into a DVD-player sized box.

    I wished they did some gaming on this system though!
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, October 19, 2010 - link

    erm... who even has a receiver with an hdmi input? Not many would be my guess. I have toslink and that is better than hdmi anyway. (No ground loops.)

    So the question is, how does this thing work if you are not getting your audio from hdmi?
    Reply
  • ajlueke - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    The optical out port works just fine. I really had to dig in my basment to find a Toslink cable and give it a whirl. If that is your preference I don't think you'll have any issues other than hiding another cable. ;) Reply
  • numberoneoppa - Tuesday, October 19, 2010 - link

    holy smokes, that thing is ugly. Reply
  • garrun - Tuesday, October 19, 2010 - link

    Does anyone know how this works streaming HD from Netflix and Hulu? If it was in the review, I didn't see it, but I remember other Ion devices had a problem with that in the past. Reply
  • ajlueke - Tuesday, October 19, 2010 - link

    I'll give it a try and post back here. For everyday web browsing the unit does fine. I noticed that Windows Media Center, as well as the PowerDVD plugin for blu-rays loaded a bit slower than on my main HTPC. My main system has a sizeable hardware advantage however, so that was to be expected. Reply
  • ajlueke - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    Both appear to work fine, I had no lag or choppiness in the hulu videos I tried or using Netflix with Microsoft silverlight. Reply
  • angelor - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    Is the Netflix HD still working for you on the zotac system? I have the barebone model and installed 500gig and 4gigs of memory on it. It is running windows 7 ultimate 64 bit. All drives updated and installed shark codec. I do have display at 1080P and have both video and audio passing through it. Reply
  • ProDigit - Tuesday, October 19, 2010 - link

    Nice design, nice project, I had just hoped the integrated audio card would be able to channel 2 channels to the stereo system.
    4 USB ports is not much, seeing that a keyboard and mouse take up 2 already.

    A USB3 port is pretty ridiculous for such a machine, most USB2 ports are fast enough to copy files upto ~50MB/s perfectly fine!
    Besides USB 3 bandwidth will probably take so much of the already taxed machine, that it would stutter or interrupt any movie playing.

    But the price is just too much!
    You're basically trading mousepad, keyboard,preinstalled OS and LCD screen for a bluray drive and a second memory slot; other than that it is nearly identical to a netbook.
    Reply
  • mindbomb - Tuesday, October 19, 2010 - link

    I'm still a little wary of atom based htpc's. I know it can totally offload video processing, but is the atom powerful enough to render pgs subtitles and decode lossless audio comfortably?
    i would feel much better if it had a low voltage core 2 cpu or something of that sort.
    Reply

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