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  • dagamer34 - Thursday, June 09, 2011 - link

    Needs built-in IR, and then we can call it an HTPC. Reply
  • amdhunter - Saturday, June 11, 2011 - link

    You can always use a vnc based remote control program with your Android or iPhone. Reply
  • Khato - Thursday, June 09, 2011 - link

    There's been a troubling trend of late in a number of Anandtech articles where testbed configurations are not even mentioned in passing. While it's not as important here for the most part, when it comes to a comparison of power consumption, especially at low levels, the power supply used can play a larger part than the CPU. With the information available in this article, the conclusion would be that the E-350 based ZBOX is very efficient and an excellent low power choice... Whereas an article on another site that compared similarly configured systems using the same power supply had an E-350 at 100% CPU load at 23.9 watts while the same load on an i3 2100T was only at 33.6 watts. As well, the i3 2100T system actually idled a bit lower, 9.8 watts vs 12.8 for the E-350.

    It's details like that that make me quite interested to see what Zotac could come up with in terms of a sandy bridge based ZBOX.
  • zupzop - Thursday, June 09, 2011 - link

    The article of xbitslabs entitled "every watt counts" you refer to, is completely misleading. If every watt would count they would have compared the E350 with the economical MSI board (they tested themselves), rather than with the energy wasting Gigabyte board.against the i3 2300. If you look for the MSI E350 on the xbitlabs pages you can verify for yourself that is consumes less power than the i3 2100 in every test reported
    (of course, given the testbed configuration used for the i3 2100).

    Xbitlab data:
    Power consumption:
    Test -> Idle, CPU-B , GPU-B, CPU+GPU B
    E350 + MSI 7.3 15.8 17.5, 22.1
    E350 + Gigabyte 12.8, 23.9, 27.7, 31.2
    i3 2100 9.7, 33.6, 22.8, 38.9

    (see )
    (and )
  • Khato - Thursday, June 09, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the further information. It's another excellent example of how the testbed configuration at these power consumption levels can have a marked effect upon how a product compares. Reply
  • duploxxx - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    xbitlabs also forgets that only for the price of the i3 2300T you can buy the brazos board+cpu......

    lets see how they fare soon against the E2and A4 launch LIano, in the end that is where an i3 should be compared with.
  • octagonalman - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    Xbitlabs didn't forget that - the price difference is mentioned clearly in the conclusion. Reply
  • burntham77 - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    Just another reason why I have become a fan of MSI. Reply
  • duploxxx - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    Regarding the review:
    This is a design build for home consumers, so therefore first of all this should have been compared against those in the same class... Atom and ION like builds i.s.o these stupid compares with desktop parts. Sure those might have also a good low power and performance quality but then you get into the self-made designs with personal touches.
    THis is becomming a habbit for anandtech site, compare with what needs to be compared, it's always possible to find a cpu and gpu that will do things in a more performing way, if you want to review the ultimate self-made htpc , start building a few and compare those against each other.

    THe reason why no provider will put a SNB inthere is first of all the price it will be much much more expensive from a cpu and mobo point of view to build and secondly since although those cpu are low power consumption they have a much higher TDP range which will force them to build and design towards the actual TDP..... not some homebrew user who makes something (which will never be that thin btw) and doesn't care about rated TDP, when intel will release lower power cpu there will also be again a pricetag.
  • Randomblame - Thursday, June 09, 2011 - link

    I just put together an htpc in the bedroom from the pile of broken acer laptops I have. It is just the bottom of the laptop without a battery and a few of the bottom covers have been replaced with patches of duct tape but it's small, quiet, efficient, powerful enough to stream movies off my desktop, and the best part is it has a keyboard and touchpad built in - small footprints ftw Reply
  • erikstarcher - Thursday, June 09, 2011 - link

    I have 2 such units in use around the house. What I hate is that most laptops these days have the ports on the sides and not the rear. And the dvd drive is on the side, not on the front. Better design for laptop use, but not as good for small form factor HTPC's. Reply
  • bobbozzo - Thursday, June 09, 2011 - link

  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 09, 2011 - link


    As in, formerly SFF HTPCs have lacked some features, and they are becoming more complete.
  • Etern205 - Thursday, June 09, 2011 - link

    Don't know about you guys, but this Zotac Zbox's top side kind of looks
    like a door bell speaker system. Just place it next to a door and you'll see
    what I mean.
  • Lord 666 - Thursday, June 09, 2011 - link

    Installed two of these at work. the profile is much thinner than the wall mounted LCD.

    Upgraded the memory and debating about swapping out the hdd for an ssd.
  • burntham77 - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    Bump the memory up to 4 gigs, swap in an SSD for the OS and software, bring in a 2TB HDD (most likely external, as I doubt this thing has space for it inside), and this would be a perfect HTPC, especially paired up with an HDHomerun. Reply
  • liveonc - Thursday, June 09, 2011 - link

    Just stick a keyboard on top, or sell it to Commodore & they'll know what to do ;-) Reply
  • KaarlisK - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    Why shouldn't TRIM work with MS Windows' native IDE driver? I've read that it works. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    It might work, but I think it also depends on implementation and driver. Also, NCQ won't work, and I'm not sure if Native IDE will allow full SATA performance -- would be interesting to do some tests and see how much of a difference it makes. Reply
  • BoonDoggie - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    This is for the more for the media-based HTPC crowd. It looks awesome, sexy, incredible, but not enough HP to move a gaming crowd. there's gotta be a middle ground in all this, HTPC for media, BUT enough HP for (at least) basic gaming. Not Crisis, mind you, but some rts, or simple rpg without all the eye candy, maybe, @ 1920x1080. Keep it under 6 bills, and i'm yours. Reply
  • cjs150 - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    Every time a new HTPC comes out we get closer and closer to an ideal main room solution. Sure it is not a gaming rig, but for watching media, maybe doing some web browsing and emails it looks good. However there are 3 or 4 areas which need work:

    1. Built in IR remote, absolutely essential and needs to have ability to shut off/sleep and bring back the machine to live

    2. Noise. We are never going to get total silence (probably) with this size of case but I am worried about Andrew's comment in the article. Cannot help but conclude that a slightly larger case and a slow running fan might be a better combination.

    3. Noise (2). I have a high end AV rack but the thing that bugs me is the Blu-ray player (Onkyo). In the quiet sections of movies I can hear the player. Crucial therefore is the noise of the slim line player in the ZBOX. Is it properly isolated/dampened from rest of case

    4. TV cards. I know you can get USB TV tuners but quality never seems to be as good as internal cards. Again given the size of the ZBOX I can forgive this not being included (and the cable set top box can do this for me) but would be on my wish list as the perfect HTPC.

    5. Finally picture quality. Always subjective but what worried me is the "drifting" Andrew reported. Intel cannot play 24 fps movies at the absolute correct frame rate (which is not exactly 24 fps), AMD can... or at least I thought that was the case until reading this article. "Drifting" worries me, but maybe improved drivers will help.

    Now can I have one in pure black to match the rest of the AV rack please!
  • burntham77 - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    All great ideas.

    Using Brazos inside a larger case that would allow the use of the one PCIe slot would allow for a PCIe CableCard tuner, or if you just wanted local channels an HDHomerun works too. A larger case (like my Antec Fusion Remote Black) allows for better airflow and a quieter system (I never hear mine even when it's spinning a blu-ray disc).

    My only real concern with moving to a Brazos setup from my Athlon X2 is your fifth item, about image quality. Although my only real concern is with Netflix. Until Silverlight adds GPU acceleration, I guess I can switch over the Xbox 360 if I need Netflix.

    Despite the concerns, this is another article has brought me that much closer to this setup.
  • jaydee - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    Nice review overall!

    An Atom-based HTPC should have been included for comparison. Something like this guy, that AT has already reviewed:

    I think it's important in reviews to consider what is underneath your test article, as well as what is higher performing, for balance purposes. Not to mention that Brazos is sort of the natural upgrade path from Aom/ION in the low-power HTPC segment.
  • babgvant - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    I agree that an ION system would have made a great additional data point. Unfortunately I don't have one on hand, but I did have a first gen ZinoHD so it was included as a reference (with some very interesting results). Reply
  • bhigh - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    Most people I know use Linux and XBMC for their HTPC.

    It would be nice to know how the E350 supports this.
  • Penti - Saturday, June 11, 2011 - link

    While technically possible XBMC's stable release do not support it and it's not trouble free to get it to work with hardware acceleration on the distro side with the development version of XBMC since you need it to go through libva/vaapi with xvba backend so it wouldn't workout of the box. It would also be quiet pointless with a blu-ray system and running Linux where you won't get it to work (cleanly) and even most of (your normal) illegal ripping tools do not work. Neither does XBMC support blu-ray on Windows without launching something like PowerDVD. Reply
  • djkebhri - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link


    I have an issue with this quote at the bottom of page 3:

    "Historically, AMD has provided the best level of refresh rate precision by default, but unfortunately that is not the case with the E-350’s 6310. As you can see from the pictures and video tracking accuracy for 24p content, it certainly can hit the target, but it has issues maintaining the correct frequency over time."

    This is incorrect. I assure you, there is nothing wrong with the E-350 and/or the 6310 playing 23.976 or 24 fps content when Catalyst is properly set to that mode.

    I have an ASUS E35M1-M Pro connected to my Samsung LN40C630 and it has no issues. Any issues you have are not due to AMD. They might be from an issue in the test setup, equipment, or the Zotac itself.
  • ganeshts - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    The experience with AMD cards for 23.976 Hz refresh rate varies across different systems and setups. Unless AMD provides a way for the end user to tweak the refresh rate according to the setup, I wouldn't consider it as reliable 23.976 at all. Reply
  • Slaimus - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    How come a complete E-350 laptop like the dm1z or X120e can be bought for under $400 but a box like this is over $500? The LCD/battery/keyboard/touchpad should outweigh the price of a BD reader upgrade. Reply
  • jaydee - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    Volume maybe? Laptop makers buy everything in much higher volumes than Zotac buys HTPC components. I don't know if this alone makes the difference or not. Maybe Zotac is pulling a lot higher profit margin?

    But your logic is valid. Can one just connect a E350 laptop to an HTPC setup and do everything that this unit can do? Minus the blu-ray, which can be added on later?
  • babgvant - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    The slim, slot loading BD drive is a big part of the cost increase. At retail a drive like the one in this system would go for $120+. ZOTAC sells a similar E350 system w/o an ODD for ~$320 ( Reply
  • wkeller - Saturday, June 11, 2011 - link

    You can have a Foxconn NT A3500 barebone E350 for around $200 (without memory/disk). Runs very quit and uses very little power. Also has lots of USB2/3 ports in a very small case. Reply
  • Penti - Saturday, June 11, 2011 - link

    Nice, but as we know the problem with something like Zacate is that it won't be powerful to do (more advanced gpu-accelerated) interlacing and stuff like that. If you need to playback virtually anything you still need a CPU that's powerful enough to do software decoding. We already know that a low-end AMD-gpu is still not powerful enough to do post processing. You won't escape from the problem by just integrating the graphics, it's still a good system on it's own though. A Intel Mini-ITX system with Z68 with external graphics would be interesting by it's strengths too albeit some other properties, especially if your system also do encoding, or handles heavier TV-capture/viewing tasks.

    Zacate does a good job handling a cheap platform that does bitstream decoding and so on though. But it has limits. Systems to playback pirated or ripped content and all sorts of formats including web-streamed or online content normally doesn't always work out perfectly. Flash Player doesn't always work out so good with hardware acceleration either thanks to it's awkward architecture. The all-round system takes some work, it's not effort less. This fills a place, this system. It comes in a quite nice form factor. BD makes it quite costly compared to the pure Zotac Brazos barebone though, it's ~190 dollars less on newegg. A DVD-only system would also had cost less. Like their Atom-based system with only a plain old DVD-drive. It's also quite preferable over the Atom based BD-system with ION-NG for the same price. All for a pretty reasonable price. If you don't need even more power that is.
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  • Hugh R - Sunday, June 19, 2011 - link

    Is the DVI output dual link? I'm wondering whether it can drive my 2560x1600 monitor.

    The official specs and manual are silent on this issue. That probably means that it is only single link.
  • Oscarcharliezulu - Saturday, June 25, 2011 - link

    Bluetooth was not mentioned so presuming another USB port used up for my dinovo mini.

    Would people say the zotac is better than my amd4850e on a 780g (amd 3200) ?

    Hdmi support is better as is image quality, but not sure I can give up the CPU speed which give me a lot of flexibility.

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