The ZBOX Nano XS AD11 Plus is based on a platform meant for an ultra-portable solution. It wouldn't make sense to compare it with full blown desktop solutions (or for that matter, even the mid-range and high end SFF HTPCs we have reviewed over the last two years). In the figures presented in the rest of this section, we will provide the scores obtained by the ZBOX unit and also place other SFF PC scores for comparison purposes (even though the price range of the PCs might not be the same).

Windows Experience Index

It is no secret that the Bobcat cores in the E-450 are the weak links. As expected, the Windows Experience Index pin-points the culprit.

PC Mark and x264 Encoding

We ran two more benchmarks to evaluate the CPU performance. It is not surprising in any way that the AMD E-450 is lagging behind in both of them. Ideally, we should have graphed some other nettops, but we chose machines with already available data points.

Futuremark PCMark Vantage

x264 Encoding - Pass 1

x264 Encoding - Pass 2

WinRAR Benchmarking

An estimate of how well WinRAR performs, particularly with respect to processing split archives, is evaluated next. Towards this, a 4.36 GB MKV file is compressed in the 'Best' compression mode into a split archive (97.1 MB each), which results in 44 files on the hard disk. The time taken to decompress this split archive is then recorded. The performance in this benchmark is heavily influenced by the drive in the system. Ideally, SSD-based systems should be able to easily beat hard disk based ones.

WinRAR Benchmarking

We find that the ZBOX slots somewhere in the middle. Even if the SSD was fast enough, it appears that the CPU is too slow to decompress the archive fast enough to match the speed of the SSD. In the next subsection, we will deal with the mSATA SSD specifically.

Primary Drive Performance

As mentioned earlier, the mSATA SSD in the system is from Kingston. The Kingston SSDNow mS100 has a Phison controller. The table below shows the Iometer test results for the mSATA SSD.

IOMeter Performance
Test Transfer Rate (MBps)
4 KB Random Write 5.87
4 KB Random Read 6.29
128 KB Sequential Read 211.89
128 KB Sequential Write 103.39

The suggestion is that writes to the drive be kept to a minimum. The 4K figures are downright abysmal, considering we get more than 50 MBps for most SSDs. It is quite possible that the transfer rates may go down as more writes are done to the flash.

Unboxing and Setup Impressions HTPC Usage Notes - Local Media Playback
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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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