Introduction and Setup Impressions

Over the last couple of years, mini-PCs in the ultra-compact form factor (UCFF) have emerged as one of the bright spots in the troubled PC market. Zotac is no stranger to this segment. In fact, their nano xs units came to the market before the Intel NUC, even though the NUC is credited with kickstarting the UCFF trend. Intel's Bay Trail family of SoCs has proved to be an affordable and low-power candidate for UCFF PC units. We have already evaluated a couple - the actively cooled GIGABYTE BXBT-1900 and and the fanless ECS LIVA.

The low power nature of the Bay Trail SoCs makes them very amenable to passively cooled systems. Zotac introduced the C-Series passively cooled PCs last year. It also includes a Bay Trail-based unit, the ZBOX CI320 nano. We have already looked at the ZBOX CI540 nano (based on Intel Haswell-Y) and ZBOX CA320 nano (based on AMD Temash) in detail. The build and feature set of the ZBOX CI320 nano are very similar.

Even though we were sampled the barebones version, we took the RAM and SSD from our ZBOX CA320 nano PLUS to get the system up and running. The CI320 nano PLUS is also one of the popular models from Zotac to come with Windows 8.1 Plus Bing - a Microsoft initiative to cut down on licensing costs for OEMs making certain types of computing devices. Bundled with a Windows 8.1 license, the CI320 nano PLUS costs less than $260. This is much cheaper than what one would pay for a Windows 8.1 license if they were to purchase the barebones unit (around $140) and the RAM / SSD separately. The specifications of our Zotac ZBOX CI320 nano review configuration are summarized in the table below.

Zotac ZBOX CI320 nano Specifications
Processor Intel Celeron N2930
(4C/4T x 1.83 GHz, 22nm, 2MB L2, 7.5W TDP, 4.5W SDP)
Memory 1x 4GB DDR3L-1600
Graphics Intel HD Graphics
Disk Drive(s) FORESEE 64 GB 2.5" SSD
Networking 1x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x1 802.11ac/Bluetooth mPCIe
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 (Win 8.1 Plus Bing) $257
Full Specifications Zotac ZBOX CI320 nano PLUS with Windows 8.1 with Bing

Our Zotac ZBOX CI320 nano kit didn't come with any pre-installed OS, but it did have a CD and a read-only USB key containing the drivers. In any case, we ended up installing the latest drivers downloaded off Zotac's product support page. In addition to the main unit, the other components of the package include a 40 W (19V @ 2.1A) adapter, a US power cord, a VESA mount (along with the necessary screws), 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 CI320 nano 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 CI320 nano when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect Zotac ZBOX CI320 nano
CPU Intel Celeron N2930 Intel Celeron N2930
GPU Intel HD Graphics Intel HD Graphics
RAM Crucial CT51264BF160B (Micron 8KTF51264HZ-1G6J1)
11-11-11-28 @ 1600 MHz
1x4 GB
Crucial CT51264BF160B (Micron 8KTF51264HZ-1G6J1)
11-11-11-28 @ 1600 MHz
1x4 GB
Storage FORESEE S600S064G
(64 GB; 2.5in SATA 6Gb/s; MLC)
FORESEE S600S064G
(64 GB; 2.5in SATA 6Gb/s; 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, no OS) $240 $240
Performance Metrics - I
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  • marvdmartian - Wednesday, January 7, 2015 - link

    Seeing as a mini-ITX motherboard specification is 6.7" x 6.7" in size, then yes, I'm pretty sure it's not the small Gideon Bible you'd find in a hotel room.
    You could easily, however, cram that into an enclosure that's the size of a sheet of notebook paper, and no more than 4" thick, by using a small form factor power supply, like you'd find in a Shuttle SFF barebones computer.
    Reply
  • Pissedoffyouth - Wednesday, January 7, 2015 - link

    Exactly, I use a picoPSU so external power brick Reply
  • Pissedoffyouth - Wednesday, January 7, 2015 - link

    Size of case 19 x 21 x 6.2cm.

    I use a PicoPSU 120w and it works great.
    Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Monday, January 12, 2015 - link

    You would be surprised how well AMD processors undervolt.

    Like overclocking... AMD and Intel actually have a bit of leeway with the voltages that they apply, so that there is more tolerance for chips that are less than stellar at lower volts.
    Of course that's to the advantage of the enthusiast as heat output can then be reduced whilst retaining the same level of performance by undervolting.

    That 45w chip could easily end up being a 30w chip or lower if he is lucky and plays with the clocks and voltages.

    Conversely, CPU's are generally not under 100% load 24/7, so the heat probably isn't a big concern if his usage demand is only in big but short bursts.
    Reply
  • rahduke - Monday, January 19, 2015 - link

    Of course he is, there are a ton of mini-itx AMD f2+ boards out there. The Minibox is the smallest mini-itx case out there and their pico PSU makes it all seem quite plausible... Reply
  • rahduke - Monday, January 19, 2015 - link

    This is precisely what I've been looking into. I was going to go with the A8-7600 since you can clock it down to 45watts and use the pico PSU that minibox sells. How is this thing working out for you? Reply
  • justareader - Tuesday, January 20, 2015 - link

    Size of a bible. What bible? Soon you and your extremist friends will want eternal damnation for a sell out site. Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Tuesday, January 6, 2015 - link

    Typos on page 2 in the second paragraph - "The Ceneron N2930 in the CI320 nano is not as powerful as the Haswell-Y Core i4 " Probably a Celeron and a Core i3 instead of Ceneron and Core i4. Reply
  • 074geodude - Tuesday, January 6, 2015 - link

    While I generally love Anandtech for their thorough benchmarks and testing, I couldn't help but feel this review totally missed the mark. I think what consumers want to know is, how good would the Zbox work as a home office PC? All these benchmarks are meaningless if they don't provide insight into the daily tasks that someone would be using this for.

    Can someone run Office and web browse with acceptable performance? Could this be a good inexpensive PC for students? Can it handle light gaming like League of Legends or DOTA 2 perhaps?

    And most importantly, how does it compare to the Chromebox, arguably its most direct competitor?
    Reply
  • Jodo116 - Tuesday, January 6, 2015 - link

    In an office setting, this is a pretty darn good machine. I have the N2840(dual core vs this quad core) and it's perfect. I would maybe argue that this is a little too pricey with the HP and Acer 11" netbooks that have the N2840 for under $200 but this is a solid machine.

    It won't be able to handle much for gaming though, with a caveat, as even Minecraft is none too keen to play on this machine. The caveat however is in Steam streaming if you have a more powerful computer elsewhere in the house. This is the perfect Steam in-home streaming device. You can play AAA games at ultra setings at 1080p with no real issues. I use mine for this and it's flawless.

    I replaced my AppleTV with this and while this is obviously more expensive, the use cases are much much more.
    Reply

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