Gaming systems and small form-factor (SFF) PCs have emerged as bright spots in the desktop PC market that has been subject to severe challenges recently. Many vendors have tried to combine the two, but space constraints and power concerns have ended up limiting the gaming performance of such systems. Zotac, in particular, has been very active in this space with their E-series SFF PCs. Earlier this year, Zotac's engineers came up with an innovative chassis and thermal design to cram a desktop class processor and a high-end discrete desktop GPU into a SFF chassis. The system still retained the limited configurability that consumers have come to expect from such systems.

Despite being innovative and unique, the motherboard features of the first generation product - the ZBOX MAGNUS EN980 - betrayed the time spent by Zotac in perfecting the other parts of the system design. However, after getting the product out, Zotac has been quick to iterate. The second-generation product - the ZBOX MAGNUS EN1080 that we are reviewing today - apparently fixes many of the shortcomings pointed out in our earlier review. The specifications of the EN1080 indicate that it can take advantage of all the modern features of the Skylake platform. There is a CPU upgrade from the 65W Core i5-6400 to the Core i7-6700. More importantly, we move from the Maxwell-based GTX 980 to the Pascal-based GTX 1080. On paper, this has resulted in a premium Skylake PC that can handle the latest and greatest workloads thrown at it. It is fitting that the release of this compact, yet, ultra-powerful rig coincides with Zotac's 10-year anniversary. In this review, we will take a look at the performance of the system and also determine the areas where Zotac can improve in the upcoming products in this lineup.

Introduction

Zotac's ZBOX MAGNUS EN1080 makes its appearance in the market within a few months of its predecessor, the ZBOX MAGNUS EN980. The claims for both systems are essentially the same - a powerful VR-ready gaming mini-PC that is equipped with a high-end desktop CPU and GPU. In terms of physical footprint, the EN980 and EN1080 are the same (5.85L / 225 mm x 203 mm x 128 mm ). Putting a high-end desktop CPU and GPU in that form factor with a liquid cooling system is technically impressive, and we have given the chassis and cooling system enough praise in the ZBOX MAGNUS EN980 review. The EN1080 retains the industrial design of the EN980. In fact, the only difference in the external appearance of the chassis is the addition of a HDMI port in the front panel. Internally, there is a bit of fancy LED lighting (controllable via the Spectra utility) that can spruce up the power button and the logos on the top and sides of the chassis.

In addition to the main unit, the PC package also includes two 180W (19.5V @ 9.23A) power bricks along with US power cords and two WLAN antennae. A quick start guide with installation instructions for the memory and disk drives, a user manual and a read-only USB key with the drivers round up the rest of the package, as shown in the gallery below. There are a few miscellaneous items (such as a 'do not disturb' door-tag with the Zotac logo) promoting Zotac's 10-year anniversary.

We received the barebones version of the ZBOX MAGNUS EN1080. In order to complete the build, we used two 16GB Corsair Vengeance DDR4 SODIMMs and a 512GB Toshiba OCZ RD400 M.2 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD. The Corsair SODIMMs can operate at up to 2667 MHz, but, in the EN1080, they are capped at 2133 MHz. The Toshiba OCZ RD400 has no such issues, and operates with the full PCIe 3.0 x4 bandwidth. Note that OCZ's custom NVMe driver is needed to obtain the best performance out of the SSD.

The specifications of our review configuration are summarized in the table below.

Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN1080 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-6700
Skylake-S, 4C/8T, 3.4 GHz (Turbo to 4.0 GHz), 14nm, 8MB L2, 65W TDP
Memory Corsair Vengeance CMSX32GX4M2A2666C18 DDR4
14-15-15-31 @ 2133 MHz
2x16 GB
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (8GB GDDR5x)
Disk Drive(s) Toshiba OCZ RD400
(512 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe; Toshiba 15nm; MLC)
Networking Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
2x Realtek RTL8168 Gigabit LAN
Audio 3.5mm Headphone Jack + 3.5mm Microphone Jack
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI)
Miscellaneous I/O Ports 4x USB 3.0
2x USB 3.1 Gen 2 (1x Type-A + 1x Type-C)
1x SDXC Card Slot
Operating System Retail unit is barebones, but we installed Windows 10 Pro x64
Pricing (As configured) $2000 (barebones)
$2505 (as configured)
Full Specifications Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN1080 Specifications

Since the MAGNUS EN980 has been reviewed thoroughly, it first helps to have a detailed comparison of the specifications of the EN980 and EN1080. The important differences are reproduced below (in the EN1080 vs. EN980 format)

  • Intel Core i7-6700 vs. Intel Core i5-6400
  • 2x DDR4 2133 SO-DIMM slots vs. 2x DDR3L 1600 SO-DIMM slots
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (w/ 8GB GDDR5x) vs. NVIDIA GeFore GTX 980 (w/ 4GB GDDR5)
  • 2x DisplayPort 1.3 vs. 2x DisplayPort 1.2
  • 3x HDMI 2.0 vs. 2x HDMI 2.0 (the extra HDMI port of the EN1080 is in the front panel, though both units support only four simultaneously active displays)
  • M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 / SATA SSD slot vs. M.2 SATA SSD slot

Internally, the EN1080 uses the B150 chipset (compared to the H170 used in the EN980). However, given the configurability options (only the DRAM and SSD / HDDs are left to the end user to complete the hardware configuration), the choice of chipset really doesn't matter. Obviously, if Zotac were to go back to the specifications stage and look into more peripherals I/Os based off PCIe bridges, the B150's limited number of high-speed I/O lanes might be problematic.

In terms of the audio codec (Realtek ALC892), Wi-Fi (Intel AC3165), LAN controllers (2x Realtek RTL8168), USB 3.1 controller (ASMedia ASM1142), and the SDXC card reader (Realtek-based USB 2.0 bridge), the EN980 and the EN1080 are the same.

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN1080 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 EN1080 when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN1080
CPU Intel Core i7-6700 Intel Core i7-6700
GPU NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (8 GB) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (8 GB)
RAM Corsair Vengeance CMSX32GX4M2A2666C18 DDR4
14-15-15-31 @ 2133 MHz
2x16 GB
Corsair Vengeance CMSX32GX4M2A2666C18 DDR4
14-15-15-31 @ 2133 MHz
2x16 GB
Storage Toshiba OCZ RD400
(512 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe; Toshiba 15nm; MLC)
Toshiba OCZ RD400
(512 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe; Toshiba 15nm; MLC)
Wi-Fi Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built) $2000 (barebones)
$2505 (as configured)
$2000 (barebones)
$2505 (as configured)
Performance Metrics - I
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  • ganeshts - Monday, December 19, 2016 - link

    To be honest, I did take the pictures, but didn't upload them because (a) their quality was not good, and I was attempting a quick turn around for this review prior to my year-end break, (b) the information conveyed in the photographs were conveyed in a better manner by the photos from Zotac's marketing team.

    Anyways, in order to avoid making readers go to Zotac's site for the pictures, I have made a gallery of the ones from their initial PR blast.

    http://www.anandtech.com/Gallery/Album/5209

    It is also linked now in the first page of the article.
    Reply
  • fanofanand - Monday, December 19, 2016 - link

    I'd rather have quicker turntimes than pretty pictures. If you want to see a gallery go to the manufacturer site. Excellent analysis Ganesh. I was hoping you could elaborate on why the memory was restricted to jedec? Is it a motherboard limitation? Reply
  • prisonerX - Tuesday, December 20, 2016 - link

    Thanks, they might not be ideal but they are informative and really most people want to stay on this site and continue going through articles, so going to an external site can be a problem, as silly as that sounds. Reply
  • JamsCB - Tuesday, December 20, 2016 - link

    That could explain it. I've seen that dual brick thing a few times very recently, including just earlier today found out the ASUS G20CB small form factor "desktop" has a dual brick setup too. Reply
  • Laststop311 - Tuesday, December 20, 2016 - link

    While it's small I would rather put 2500 dollars into a fully powered micro atx tower. Better + quieter cooling, fully powered overclocked cpu, overclocked gpu, regular DDR4 ram with more bandwidth and with that kinda budget you can stick a 2TB 960 pro m2 ssd as your main drive and a big HGST helium drive for your mass media storage. Or go with cheaper SSD storage + a 5 -8 bay NAS in your basement. To have 2500 to pay for this means you really have money to throw around or are stupid. Reply
  • shelbystripes - Tuesday, December 20, 2016 - link

    While I love the concept, $2500 seems absurd for what you're getting.

    To put this in comparison, an Alienware 17 laptop with an 8GB GTX 1070, i7-6820HK CPU, and 16GB RAM starts at $1899. Upgrade to GTX 1080 and 32GB RAM for $2899. That includes a 512GB PCIe SSD *and* a 1TB HDD for additional storage.

    For $400 more you get a computer that is still compact enough to be portable, and is the same performance (actually with a faster CPU and more storage space), but with a built in 17" 120Hz G-Sync enabled monitor and keyboard to boot. You can always hook up external KVM to use at home, but be able to take it with you easily. Oh, and I believe the Alienware only requires one power brick.

    Alienware tend to be more expensive than the competition. ASUS' laptops with GTX 1080 aren't out yet. But when they are, I'm betting they'll have one at $2500, making this Zotac irrelevant.
    Reply
  • OrphanageExplosion - Monday, December 26, 2016 - link

    Interesting review but ultimately has a ton of info I don't need (1280x1024 performance with a GTX 1080? What?) and a ton of info I do need that isn't there. For example, boost clock on my GTX 1080 FE tops out at around 1866MHz and will stay there - what about this one? How loud is the unit under load? How about 1440p and 4K benchmarks (far more relevant for this GPU than what you did test)?

    Bottom line is that I went in wanting to know if this can match an actual desktop GTX 1080 system and I came out still not really knowing to what extent it may be lacking. If it's slower than a GTX 1080 laptop (which typically loses around 100-150MHz compared to the FE) I guess it's really a fair bit slower?

    My feeling here is that perhaps the benchmark suite is outdated and so this review is being held hostage by the need to match up with legacy data that in many areas has little relevance to the actual use-case scenarios for the unit.
    Reply
  • ottawajimbo - Thursday, December 29, 2016 - link

    Has anyone tried to get a Linux distribution running on this? Reply

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