Small Form Factor (SFF) PCs are becoming quite popular as the processors become more and more power efficient. Over the last few years, we have had a slew of budget SFF PCs. We have a number of powerful units targeting the mid-range and high-end markets such as the CoreHT and the Vision 3D series from ASRock. However, the sales volume lies in the budget lineups. Companies like Asus, ASRock, Sapphire and Zotac have been playing in this segment of the market. The trend started with pure Atom based nettops. The ION-based nettops brought HD video decoding and limited gaming capabilities to the budget lineups. AMD joined the game late with their AMD Fusion-based Brazos offerings early last year. Almost all of these offerings come to the consumer in the form of mini-ITX boards.

Today, Zotac is launching their AMD E-450 based custom sized solution, the ZBOX Nano XS AD11 Plus. The motherboard of the unit measures 10 cm x 10 cm, which is smaller than the nano-ITX (12 cm x 12 cm) and just slightly bigger than the pico-ITX form factor (10 cm x 7.2 cm). The system comes in at 10.6 cm x 10.6 cm x 3.7 cm, and is definitely one of the smallest machines we have reviewed. One of the biggest impediments to the miniaturization of PCs is the presence of a 2.5" drive in the system. The advent of mSATA and the increasing number of mSATA SSDs in the market provides an opportunity for system builders to drive down the size and volume of their PCs. Zotac has indeed done this with the ZBOX Nano XS AD11 Plus. Instead of a 2.5" hard drive common in other budget SFF PCs, the unit comes with a 64 GB mSATA SSD.

The picture below shows the size of the ZBOX when compared with an ASRock Vision 3D mini-ITX motherboard based PC. The PC is indeed quite small and it even fits in one's palms

The table below summarizes the specifications of the ZBOX Nano XS AD11 Plus.

Zotac ZBOX Nano XS AD11 Plus Specifications
Processor AMD E-450
(2 x 1.65 GHz Bobcat cores, 1 MB L2, 40nm, 18 W)
Chipset AMD A50M (Hudson-M1)
Memory 1 x 2 GB SO-DIMM Samsung DDR3-1333 (Maximum 1 x 4 GB) (1.6 GB Available to CPU)
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 6320
(80 Stream Processors, 508 MHz core clock (Turbo to 600 MHz), 384 MB Available to GPU)
Primary Drive(s) Kingston SSDNow mS100 SMS100S2/64G mSATA 64GB SATA II SSD
Networking 150 Mbps Realtek RTL8188CU Wireless LAN 802.11n USB 2.0 Network Adapter (Bundled)
Realtek PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek 2-channel HD Audio
Optical SPDIF (with mini-SPDIF Adaptor)
Headphone and mic jacks
Front Side Power button
IR Receiver
MMC/SD/SDHC/MS/MS Pro/SDXC Card Reader
eSATA / USB 2.0 Combo Port
Headphone / optical SPDIF adaptor and mic jacks
Right Side Exhaust vent
Kensington lock
Left Side Exhaust vent
Rear Side AC Adaptor input
HDMI 1.4a compatible port
2 x USB 3.0
1 x GbE LAN
2 x USB 2.0
Operating System Barebones (Shipping) / Reviewed with Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 106mm x 106mm x 37mm
Pricing $359.99 MSRP

The unit is also VESA mountable on the back of a LCD TV or monitor. In the rest of the review, I will first talk about the unboxing and setup impressions, followed by general performance metrics. A small PC like the ZBOX Nano XS AD11 Plus could easily find a role as a dedicated media playback HTPC, and we will cover some HTPC aspects before providing our final verdict.

Unboxing and Setup Impressions
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  • tipoo - Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - link

    Do any exist in this form factor, or are the joints proprietary? For something like this a large passively cooled heatsink would be nice. Reply
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - link

    I don't think there's room for anything much larger. You've only got 1/4" minus the thickness of the baseplate in additional vertical space. You don't have room to expand sideways either, the area oposite to the USB/Ethernet/etc connectors is taken up by the daughterboard with the audio/Sd/eSata headers. Reply
  • gamoniac - Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - link

    I have a slightly larger ZBox Nano AD10 with E350. This thing runs hot. I don't passively cooled heat sink would work. Just today, mine shut down again while my wife was using it just for web surfing; this is a long running issue since I had this unit. The small form factor was cute at first but the problem became annoying when it does not do what you bought it for.

    While it's good to push for smaller form factor, it is even more important that Zotac makes sure that they put out a product that works. On that note, does anyone want to buy a fairly new ZBox Nano AD10 with E350? :(
    Reply
  • gamoniac - Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - link

    PS: My GPU temp is high as Ganesh's screenshots show in this article. CPU is hot too during normal usage. I even threw in an SSD but that didn't seem to help keeping the temperature down much, so I swapped the SSD out to use somewhere else worthwhile. Reply
  • Matias - Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - link

    I agree, I also have an AD10 and it runs waaay to hot! Reply
  • Samus - Thursday, April 12, 2012 - link

    For the same price you could build a Pentium G620, Intel Z68 mATX, 4GB DDR3, 128GB Intel SSD, in a SilverStone ML03B chassis that'll fit in beautifully with any receiver, dvd player or other media equipment.

    It'd be vastly superior in every way. Ridiculously faster, more expandable, quieter, cooler, lower power consumtion (when used with 80+ Bronze PSU) and unfortunately for Zotac, infinitely more reliable.

    ZBox Nano's are notorious for overheating, and other than putting them in front of an air conditioner, there is no real way to fix it with such a design. The reviews on Newegg and Amazon have a number of people discussing the shortcomings of this unit with few people saying they'd buy one again.

    As usual, DIY trumps all. When a company finds an economical+superior alternative, then its worth AT reviewing it.
    Reply
  • Matias - Thursday, April 12, 2012 - link

    This DIY setup is like 5 times larger than the Zotacs, keep that in mind. I also build DIY desktops, but for HTPC the small form factor of the Zotac is still unrivaled. Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, April 13, 2012 - link

    The Silverstone case Samus suggested is actually 65 times larger (by volume). It's smallest dimension is the same size as the Zotac's largest... Reply
  • cjs150 - Thursday, April 12, 2012 - link

    the problem is that the design is not optimised for fanless operation. What is needed is an after market case which would be a heavy duty heatsink (Hfx, Streacom do these but for full sized mini-itx form). It looks as though even the E-450 just does not have enough power to do the obvious job (as an HTPC) correctly.

    At the moment the better option is to wait for Trinity ULV or bite bullet and go for a proper mini-ITX board.

    Maybe if Intel actually did some proper design of an IGP and fixed the frame rate refresh option that would be best - an i3 but with an AMD IGP is the perfect combination
    Reply
  • Zink - Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - link

    That mobo sure is cute. Even if it isn't that useful, someone needs to keep pushing new form factors. Reply

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