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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  • ajlueke - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    It really was a good experience using the system. Of course, my main dual purpose machine runs a Phenom II 965 @ 3.8 GHz with an Intel X25-M 160Gb boot drive, so things will of course not measure up to that. But standard web browsing was responsive as was loading into PowerDVD or Media Center. I haven't tried gaming on this machine, so I am unsure how it would fair there. Reply
  • tukkas - Tuesday, October 19, 2010 - link

    can this be resolved via a future firmware update or is it wired into the chip. if so, which one? thank y oui Reply
  • Mumrik - Tuesday, October 19, 2010 - link

    "Most users need DTS-HD MA and Dobly TrueHD bitstreaming from their primary HTPC for their AV receiver to decode. "

    That's just a hilarious quote :-D
    Reply
  • numberoneoppa - Tuesday, October 19, 2010 - link

    I suppose it is. :P Reply
  • blarfmarfle - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    I bought one of these to use as an HTPC in my living room. I needed a tiny computer that could play back all my kids' ripped DVDs through Media Center + My Movies, and this fit the bill. I swapped out the HD with a Vertex 60GB SSD so it would sleep/wake quickly, which it does (~2sec). It is near silent, and it is slim enough to tuck away on top of the XBox in my entertainment center. Playback for both Netflix HD and ripped DVDs is good, and the few MP4 files I have tried playing (720p from my Flip HD) look great. Bluray playback is acceptable, although I generally use my PS3 for Bluray. Build quality seems pretty high, and it is easy to open and work inside.

    The complaints about a missing remote are valid- I bought an IR receiver so I could use my Harmony remote. I can't really comment on the HD audio codec problem, since I'm running this into a Samsung Soundbar with simulated 5.1 which is nothing to scream about.

    All told, for my limited requirements, this is a neat little computer that works well.
    Reply
  • ET - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    The second sentence on page 3 is "I also can the system through our media streaming test suite." I assume it should be "ran" and not "can".

    As for the Zotac, first of all I like it that it's possible to get a PC with Blu-ray for $500. That's a lot less than I remember such devices costing. I like the device of the Zotac, and since I use the TV's speakers it would have been enough for me. However, I'm not really sold on an HTPC as a media solution. I tend to get along better with devices geared for the task. Now if I could get a PC that could also do gaming on the TV that might be good, but then it couldn't have such a streamlined design.
    Reply
  • ajlueke - Wednesday, November 10, 2010 - link

    No, building dual purpose media/gaming systems tend to require larger less stylish case as some hi end video cards are nearly as big and heavy as this entire PC. I myself use a larger machine as a gaming/media system, that also has enough room for harddrives to store all my media and serve it to the rest of the house. But using this unit to stream media to another TV where less gaming is goign on works quite well. Reply
  • Milleman - Monday, October 25, 2010 - link

    As I use XBMC myself, I would like to know if this product is able run XBMC as well. Reply
  • ajlueke - Wednesday, November 10, 2010 - link

    I did install XBMC on the Zotac Zbox, cand in ran acceptably, without much slowdown at all. I think you'll be pleased with the XBMC performance on the Zbox. I know I was, given the performance of past Atom systems. Reply
  • angelor - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    I have hdmi cable passing both video and audio can that the reason that I do not get any HD to play properly on my system? I also have set as 1080 screen rate of 60. I will check display to 720p. I am using Windows 7 ultimate 64 bit and have installed shark codecs on it. Aero is currently disabled on my system. Reply

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