LAS VEGAS, NV — Last year Intel introduced its Compute Card initiative, aimed mostly at manufacturers of specialized PCs and smart devices that benefit from high integration, easy installation, and a standardized dimension or interface. This has, apparently, given makers of consumer computers an opportunity in ultra-small desktop PCs. This year at CES, ZOTAC has demonstrated its new-generation ultra-small ZBOX Pico PCs that looks like a pile of credit cards, but still offers a rather decent feature-set and connectivity. The first is the PI226, which is very small, and in addition there is a larger ZBOX Pico PI336 with enhanced connectivity.

ZBOX Pico PI226: A Credit Card-Sized Desktop

ZOTAC’s ZBOX Pico PI226 is based on Intel’s Celeron N4000 SoC, which has two cores and the UHD 600 graphics engine, but is also the most 'affordable' mobile Gemini Lake chip that Intel lists for $107. Because of the new SoC, the ZBOX Pico PI226 offers a bit higher general-purpose performance as well as improved media processing capabilities when compared to its predecessor the ZBOX Pico PI225 launched last year. Just like its predecessor, the ZBOX Pico PI226 comes in black metallic chassis and does not require any active cooling. The listed TDP of the Celeron N4000 SoC is just 6.5 W, but nevertheless how ZOTAC has postitioned the TDP means that this amount of heat can be dissipated by convection alone in this chassis.

The credit card-sized computer is equipped with 4 GB of LPDDR4 memory, 32 GB eMMC storage and a microSD card reader to expand storage capabilities. Wireless connectivity of the tiny PC includes a 802.11ac Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.2 wireless module, whereas wired connectivity is comprised of two USB 3.0 Type-C ports and a micro-USB power header. ZOTAC plans to bundle a USB-C dongle with an HDMI and two USB Type-A ports with the Pico PI226, just like it does with its current-generation ZBOX Pico PI225.

ZBOX Pico PI336: A Palm-Sized Desktop

ZOTAC’s ZBOX Pico PI336 is considerably larger than the Pico PI226, but is still unbelievably small for a desktop computer. This one is based on the quad-core Celeron N4100 with the UHD 600 iGPU and thus offers higher performance in multi-threaded applications when compared to the PI226. It has the same RAM/storage configuration, with 4 GB of LPDDR4 memory, 32 GB of eMMC NAND flash and a microSD card reader.

Where the ZBOX Pico PI336 clearly excels the Pico PI226 is connectivity. In addition to 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, a USB 3.0 Type-C port, this one is equipped with a GbE connector, two USB 3.0 Type-A headers, an HDMI 2.0 output, a DisplayPort 1.2 as well as a 3.5-mm TRRS audio jack.

Preliminary Specifications of ZOTAC's Gemini Lake Mini PCs
  ZBOX Pico PI226 ZBOX Pico PI336
CPU Intel Celeron N4000
2 Cores
1.1 GHz - 2.6 GHz
4 MB
6.5 W TDP
Intel Celeron N4100
4 Cores
1.1 - 2.4 GHz
4 MB
6.5 W TDP
iGPU UHD 600, 12 EUs at 650 MHz UHD 600, 12 EUs at 700 MHz
Memory 4 GB LPDDR4
Storage eMMC 32 GB
Other - microSD/SD
Wireless 802.11ac Wi-Fi + BT 4.2
Ethernet - 1 × Gigabit Ethernet with RJ45 connector
Display Outputs HDMI 1.4 via USB-C 1 × DisplayPort 1.2
1 × HDMI 2.0
Audio via USB-C/HDMI/DP 1 × TRRS connector
USB 2 × USB 3.1 Type-C with DP 1.2
2 × USB 3.0 Type-A on dongle
1 × USB 3.1 Type-C
2 × USB 3.0 Type-A
PSU External
OS Microsoft Windows 10 or none

ZOTAC plans to start selling the new ZBOX Pico PI226 and PI336 sometimes in the second quarter. Pricing has not been announced, but since Intel did not change pricing of its SoCs since the Apollo Lake generation, it makes sense to expect pricing of the Pico PI226 to be in the same ballpark with that of the Pico PI225. The latter hit the market in November and is available for less than $200. ZOTAC’s ZBOX Pico PI3-series PCs also cost around $200, so expect the new Pico PI336 to retail for a similar amount of money.

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  • Volodath - Wednesday, January 17, 2018 - link

    $55 USD on newegg, and free if you're a student/premier. Apparently they're faster in real world applications than the older J1900 models. Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Wednesday, January 17, 2018 - link

    Canadian retailers/versions overcharge, I know that.

    The point is ARK pricing doesn't reflect what Intel sells them for. Otherwise, retailers like Newegg would have zero profit.
    Reply
  • phoenix_rizzen - Wednesday, January 17, 2018 - link

    Article specifies 2x USB 3.0 Type-C ports on the smaller one, but the table lists those as 2x USB 3.1 Type-C ports. Which is correct? Reply
  • Tabalan - Wednesday, January 17, 2018 - link

    Both, they changed the name of USB 3.0 to USB 3.1 Gen1. We also got proper USB 3.1, which is called USB 3.1 Gen2. Unnecessary mess with names, I know. Reply
  • HStewart - Wednesday, January 17, 2018 - link

    This thing is actually quite large if you compare it to Intel's Compute Card which actually credit card size

    https://www.amazon.com/Intel-BLKCD1P64GK-Compute-C...

    Also not currently available now they are coming out with y version of Chips - which are significantly faster than this chip or new ARM windows chips.

    I am typing this on a m3-6y30 version Intel compute stick which can fit in my pocket.
    Reply
  • Lord of the Bored - Thursday, January 18, 2018 - link

    Well, yes, it is larger than a Compute Card. It is also a standalone device with standard connectors, whereas the Compute Card must be connected to something else due to a lack of them. Reply
  • Alistair - Wednesday, January 17, 2018 - link

    Windows does not run properly with 32GB storage. 64GB is the minimum. I wish they'd stop these scams. Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Wednesday, January 17, 2018 - link

    The 32GB of MMC gives me pause...

    We have a bunch of signage PCs at work that came with 32GB drives. They only have Windows 10 and the signage client installed, and they never had enough free drive space to download and install a feature update for Windows 10(from 1703 to 1709 for example). Thankfully, they where M.2 drives and we could drop larger drives in.

    If these Zotacs even had 64GB, they'd avoid that issue.
    Reply
  • mpbello - Thursday, January 18, 2018 - link

    You could of course use Linux which can fit in a 32gb disk with much ease, and you will be able to keep it updated and safe. Why are you paying Windows licenses when you do not have to? Reply
  • HideOut - Wednesday, January 17, 2018 - link

    I agree with most of these people, has promise but needs AT LEAST 64gb of storage. Would be nice to have an 8gb RAM option too. Reply

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