Final Words

Zotac's ZBOX CI540 nano provided us with the first opportunity to evaluate the performance of a Y-series CPU from Intel. The Core i5-4210Y is surprisingly powerful. Passively cooled systems are either very costly (particularly if they integrate powerful CPUs) or downright abysmal in performance (when they integrate the low-end / low-power CPUs such as the older Atoms). Zotac's offering with the ZBOX CI540 nano aims to strike a balance. $335 for a barebones configuration is quite reasonable for this type of system.

One of the aspects that we were worried about prior to evaluation was thermal throttling. Fortunately for Zotac, the Core i5-4210Y seems to keep the scenario design power (SDP) in mind while managing the internal clocks. Intel's intent with the Y-series is such that CPU performance needs to be talked about in terms of power consumption rather than absolute clocks. Outside the benchmarking circus, day-to-day workloads for the average mini-PC user actually fall rather nicely into the SDP aspect.

Pretty much the only downside of the unit is the unreasonably high idle power. Perhaps Zotac could look into some default BIOS optimizations to resolve that aspect. Other than that, the platform ticks everything needed in the mini-PC market - plenty of USB ports, quick charging capabilities, 802.11ac WLAN with Bluetooth integrated, a SD card reader and even a Display Port output along with the traditional HDMI. All these are packaged along with the Core i5-4210Y - one of the most powerful CPUs in the 11.5W TDP range. With the ZBOX CI540 nano, Zotac has managed to deliver the right balance of price and performance in the fanless mini-PC market.

Power Consumption & Thermal Performance
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  • Teknobug - Sunday, November 2, 2014 - link

    I wonder how this compares to the fanless Celeron N2930 (4C 1.86GHz) NUCs, I have some interest in a fanless box. Reply
  • Osamede - Sunday, November 2, 2014 - link

    Why are these products not being compared to the Mac Mini in the tests. The use case is basically identical, especially with respect to HTPC. Reply
  • ultimatexbmc.com - Sunday, November 2, 2014 - link

    Looks like a nice unit for the price. Reply
  • james16 - Monday, November 3, 2014 - link

    This is probably the best looking Zotac mini-PC I've seen. Most of their other mini-PCs have an ugly glossy design.

    How fast is the SD card reader? I hope it's not connected through via USB 2.0. I have some SDXC cards that have 100+ megabytes/second sequential reads/writes which is useful when transferring large photos and videos.
    Reply
  • Romulous - Friday, November 7, 2014 - link

    I believe that it was Via that kick started this form factor, not Intel. Reply
  • Romulous - Friday, November 7, 2014 - link

    "Zotac ZBOX CI540 nano". Will be supprised if Via dont sue them. Reply
  • Noëlius - Friday, November 21, 2014 - link

    Why would you not just buy a Mac mini for $549, and have really great hardware vs mediocre garbage! Put windows or linux on it if you're not into OS X! Whatever! Reply
  • damageboy - Friday, December 5, 2014 - link

    Does the 4210Y GPU support decoding H265/x265 on HW? Reply

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