Introduction and Setup Impressions

Intel's Crystal Well parts (-R series) with integrated eDRAM have arguably been the most interesting products in the Haswell line-up. In the early stages, only Apple had access to these parts. However, since the beginning of 2014, we have seen other vendors roll out products based on the -R series processors. The BRIX Pro (BXi7-4770R) was one of the first products to roll out with Crystal Well in the PC space. With a design reminiscent of the NUC, the focus was more on designing a compact platform rather than providing more features on the hardware side. The -R series processors are all OEM-only, so users have to look to PC manufacturers to get systems based on it. Expandability in terms of adding PCIe cards (such as discrete GPUs and/or wired network adapters) is ruled out, and one has to rely on what the OEM designs into the motherboard. Zotac has taken their full-size mini-PC chassis (similar to the one in the Zotac ID89) and put in a motherboard sporting a Core i7-4770R inside it to create the ZBOX EI750.

Zotac provides both barebones and Plus models, as is customary with all their pre-built PCs. The Plus model comes with a disk drive as well as some DRAM bundled. Our review configuration was the Plus model with the following configuration.

Zotac ZBOX EI750 Plus Specifications
Processor Intel Haswell Core i7-4770R
(4C/8T x 3.20 GHz (3.90 GHz Turbo), 22nm, 6MB L2, 65W)
Memory 1 x 8GB DDR3L-1600
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 5200
200 MHz / 1.3 GHz (Turbo)
Disk Drive(s) 1 TB Seagate 2.5" HDD + Spare mSATA Slot
Networking 2 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x1 802.11ac mPCIe
Audio Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (DVI-HDMI / 2x DP 1.2)
Operating System

Retail unit is barebones, but we installed Windows 8.1 x64

Pricing (As configured) $780 on Newegg
Full Specifications Zotac ZBOX EI750 Plus Specifications

The ZBOX EI750 doesn't come with any pre-installed OS, but we do have a read-only USB key with Windows drivers. In addition to the main unit, the other components of the package include a 120 W (19V @ 6.32A) adapter, a US power cord, plastic stand / base holder for the main unit, a single 2.4 GHz / 5 GHz antenna for the Wi-Fi module, a DVI-to-HDMI adapter, screws for 2.5" HDD installation, a Quick Start guide and an user manual. We installed Windows 8.1 Professional x64 for our evaluation purposes.

The stand-out aspects of the ZBOX EI750 compared to similar mini-PCs include the presence of two Display Port outputs, two GbE LAN ports and an optical SPDIF output. The gallery below takes us around the hardware in the unit.

In the course of our review, we found that the EI750 Plus came up with some disappointing benchmark numbers compared to the BRIX Pro. It was quite obvious that the single-channel memory in the ZBOX was pulling it down. To simulate a typical end-user situation, we augmented the unit with an ADATA mSATA SSD (SX300) boot drive and replaced the original single Crucial SODIMM with 2x 8 GB ADATA SODIMMs having the same CAS latency of 11. The rest of the review will present benchmark numbers for both configurations.

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the ZBOX EI750 against. Note that they may not belong to the same market segment. The relevant configuration details of the machines are provided so that readers have an understanding of why some benchmark numbers are skewed for or against the EI750 when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect Zotac ZBOX EI750 Plus
CPU Intel Core i7-4770R Intel Core i7-4770R
GPU Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200 Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200
RAM Crucial CT102464BF160B.C16
11-11-11-28 @ 1600 MHz
1x8 GB
Corsair Vengeance CMSX8GX3M2B1866C10
10-10-10-32 @ 1866 MHz
2x4 GB
Storage Seagate Momentus ST1000LM024
(1 TB, 2.5in SATA, 5400 RPM)
Samsung SSD 840 EVO
(120 GB, 2.5in SATA 6Gb/s, 19nm, TLC)
Wi-Fi Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Realtek 8821AE Wireless LAN 802.11ac
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built) $780 $829

 

Performance Metrics - I
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  • MonkeyPaw - Monday, August 25, 2014 - link

    Seems like the HDMI should have been a default port, but I suppose the adapter (bright yellow as it is) solves the HTPC aspect. I would think this would make a nice light duty Steambox or retrogaming machine for the living room.

    A small bit of advice with your device photos, use moderate incandescent ambient lighting instead of a flash, and a camera with good macro on a tripod. You'll get warmer product shots with better detail (and less reflection on the shiny black devices). Some of those product shots are a little hard to make out.
    Reply
  • Samus - Monday, August 25, 2014 - link

    Wow, $800+ and no SSD or Windows license? Holy cow. Why not just pickup a Lenovo M93p w/ i7-4765T for hundreds less with an SSD and Windows 8, or if size isn't a concern, an SFF with a discrete Radeon, for even less. Is Intel really charging these OEM's $400 for these i7-4770R's? Reply
  • marvdmartian - Tuesday, August 26, 2014 - link

    Zotac, at least in recent years, has tended to put a pretty high premium on their hardware (IMHO). I remember them as being more of a budget-minded company, 3-5 years ago, when I used their motherboards in a few system builds. But lately, they seem to have swung to the other end of the spectrum, demanding Asus-like prices. Not sure if their hardware reliability is up to their premium price these days, though.
    Of course, putting that stick of ram and 1TB hard drive in there probably drove the price up a couple hundred dollars. **sigh**
    Reply
  • 2late2die - Monday, August 25, 2014 - link

    "the two wired GbE ports open up various interesting applications for this powerful mini-PC"
    So what kinds of interesting applications would these be?

    I'm not being snarky, genuinely curious. When I started reading the specs for this, the thing that stood out the most to me were the two LAN ports - how would one utilize those on a machine like this?
    Reply
  • TerdFerguson - Monday, August 25, 2014 - link

    Network router/switch/bridge? Failover switch for some fault-tolerant system? Reply
  • melvin121 - Monday, August 25, 2014 - link

    way to expensive (and overkill) to be a router. While the footprint of this is perfect in size, you could build an ITX based system for far less and probably add a 4 port nic in the open PCIe slot. Reply
  • nathanddrews - Monday, August 25, 2014 - link

    He states an exact scenario where this is useful in the article:

    "I have been using the unit as a virtualization platform, running a Windows 7 VM and a CentOS 6.2 VM simultaneously, each of them with a dedicated wired network link. The in-built Wi-Fi is used for the host OS."

    Personally, I don't use VMs often, but I do like bandwidth for other reasons. The desktops/HTPCs in my house have dual gigabit ports to facilitate large file transfers and backups as quickly as possible. It's nice to have.
    Reply
  • Samus - Monday, August 25, 2014 - link

    I've never used dual-NIC's outside of Hyper-V. Failover...for what? Exactly how often do NIC's fail? This isn't an enterprise-class device. If you need failover or an additional port, these plenty of USB 3.0 ports you can add a gigabit NIC too... Reply
  • ggathagan - Tuesday, August 26, 2014 - link

    Bonding multiple NIC's only improves the *aggregate* bandwidth, not an individual connection's bandwidth.
    As such, it's only of use on a NAS, where you may have multiple clients connecting and transferring data.
    Each client can only transfer at the rate of a single NIC.
    Reply
  • Chapbass - Monday, August 25, 2014 - link

    I've been looking for a SFF machine with dual gigabit nics. Having the 2nd nic is great for an ESXi home lab environment. Sure, you can pile it all on one nic, but the 2nd makes it so much better, IMO. Reply

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