In the course of our coverage of mini-PCs, we have seen offerings from vendors such as ASRock, GIGABYTE and Zotac targeting the gaming market. Usually, 'mini' doesn't fit the requirements of consumers in this space, but the appearance of power-efficient high performance GPUs have made the offerings in the gaming mini-PC space quite interesting. Zotac has been creating mini-PCs with a gaming focus by tying a mobile NVIDIA GPU with a Core U-series Intel CPU for a couple of generations now. Today, we will be taking a look at the Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN970 - a system combining a Broadwell-U CPU with a NVIDIA Maxwell GM204 mobile GPU.

Introduction and Setup Impressions

The ZBOX E-series targets the gaming market. In the previous years, the E-series adopted a tried and tested industrial design (for example, the chassis of the ZBOX EI750 was very similar to that of the PCs in the ZBOX ID series). The MAGNUS EN970 adopts a radically different industrial design. The unit is not as small as the NUCs, even though the height is similar. The area of the top side is around the same as that of the ASRock Vision series. However, the absence of an optical drive slot enables a chassis with considerably lower thickness.

The specifications of our Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN970 review configuration are summarized in the table below.

Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN970 Specifications
Processor Intel Core I5-5200U
Broadwell-U, 2C/4T, 2.7GHz, 14nm, 3MB L2, 15W
Memory 2 x 8 GB DDR3L @ 1600MHz
Graphics NVIDIA GTX 960 (as per drivers),
'a rebadged GTX 970M (hardware-wise)'
Disk Drive(s) 128 GB OCZ Vector
Networking 2x 1GbE Realtek RTL8168 +
1x1 Intel Wireless-AC 3160 802.11ac
Audio Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI)
Operating System Retail unit is barebones, but we installed Windows 8.1 Pro x64
Pricing (As configured) USD $978, Barebones is $800
Full Specifications Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN970 Specifications

The Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN970 kit doesn't come with any pre-installed OS, but does come with a CD and a read-only USB key containing the drivers. In any case, we ended up installing the latest drivers from Zotac's product support page. In addition to the main unit, the other components of the package include a 180 W (19.5V @ 9.23A) adapter, a US power cord, a single 2.4 GHz / 5 GHz antenna for the Wi-Fi feature, a driver CD / read-only USB key, user's manual and a quick-start guide.

The gallery below takes us around the hardware in the unit.

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN970 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 Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN970 when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN970
CPU Intel Core i5-5200U Intel Core i5-5200U
GPU NVIDIA GTX 960 (3GB) [GTX 970M] NVIDIA GTX 960 (3GB) [GTX 970M]
RAM Panram Intl PSD3L1600C118G2VS
11-11-11-28 @ 1600 MHz
2x8 GB
Panram Intl PSD3L1600C118G2VS
11-11-11-28 @ 1600 MHz
2x8 GB
Storage OCZ Vector
(128 GB; SATA 6Gb/s; 25nm; MLC)
OCZ Vector
(128 GB; SATA 6Gb/s; 25nm; MLC)
Wi-Fi Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built) $978
Barebones is $800
$978
Performance Metrics - I
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  • watzupken - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    I am not sure if it makes sense to pair a decent graphic solution with a Ultra low power CPU to begin with. I believe the constraint is with the cooling solution, but I think I can live with a slightly bigger chassis. Reply
  • firewall597 - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    I dunno, it seems like a compelling 1080p solution to me. I'm sure they put plenty of thought into their choice, between the pairing of CPU+GPU in such a small package, while also trying to reach a certain price point.

    Owning a SP3 with a pretty comparable 4300u, it's pretty impressive what it can do all things considered. Being paired with a 970m and put into a tiny $800 package is actually pretty enticing as an HTPC/Steam box solution for the living room.
    Reply
  • barleyguy - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    Agreed. Most living room displays (TV/Projector) are 1080p, and this box performs very well at 1080p. It's small enough to put next to a TV, and should be very quiet as far as fan noise as well.

    I have an EN760 in my living room. It's an older version of this same box. It works great.

    My only complaint is that they raised the price from $500 to $800 (for the barebones) compared to previous generations. $500 was a more compelling price; $800 gets too close to laptop territory.
    Reply
  • jameskatt - Thursday, October 01, 2015 - link

    Cheapness is why the PC market is dying. Reply
  • SBD-3 - Saturday, October 17, 2015 - link

    Portability is why PC's are dying. People want it all in the palm of their hands. Reply
  • LoganPowell - Friday, November 27, 2015 - link

    This is one expensive gaming desktop and its not even on the top rank (see http://www.consumerrunner.com/top-10-best-desktops... for example...). Not my first choice as there are better with lesser price on the market. Reply
  • liebezeit - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    HTPC for $800? My repurposed Asus Chromebox I bought used for $75 works great for me... Reply
  • SirKnobsworth - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    You wouldn't try any serious gaming on a Chromebox. Similarly, you wouldn't buy this if you just wanted to watch Netflix. Reply
  • firewall597 - Tuesday, September 29, 2015 - link

    BUT CAN IT PLAY CRYSIS?
    This can.
    Reply
  • QinX - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    Any reason as to why you didn't show the heatsink setup/MXM module?
    I'd be curious to see if you could squeeze in the new GTX980 MXM module in here, yes I know the 5200U is anemic for a GTX980.
    Reply

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