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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  • tential - Tuesday, January 6, 2015 - link

    Yes for small machines like this the benchmarks are nice, but we need to have in the "Final Words" section some notes about their usage of this machine. Because the benchmark doesn't tell me if using Office/WebBrowsing feels alright or not.

    I'm VERY happy though that they started doing XBMC testing and to find this PC handles it perfectly. I'm curious to see how this would be priced without Windows so I could make it a dedicated XBMC machine.
    Reply
  • jimbo2779 - Tuesday, January 6, 2015 - link

    The price listed is already the price without the OS. It came with no OS and they had to install it themselves. Reply
  • bsd228 - Tuesday, January 6, 2015 - link

    Windows with Bing is free for computers < $250. Basically they don't want to lose that business to Chrome. Reply
  • 074geodude - Tuesday, January 6, 2015 - link

    I'm starting to see a rise in popularity of low cost ($200 or less) miniPCs. At CES 2015 HP just announced the $180 Stream Mini. Gone will be the days of huge bulky desktops sitting on top of your desk. Now we'll have pocket-sized PCs at every monitor or TV that are capable of doing the daily tasks that most consumers need, like Office/web-browsing/streaming video. Reply
  • Solandri - Tuesday, January 6, 2015 - link

    I would argue that most everyone already has a pocket-sized PC in their pocket - a smartphone. And all that's needed is a straightforward way to interface it with an external monitor/TV and keyboard/mouse any time you want to use a "PC" at a desk. Microsoft realizes this, which is why they are pushing Windows Phone and were pushing Windows RT. Intel realizes this, which is why they're concentrating on power savings and mobile processors (to take on ARM), rather than trying to push high-end performance. Reply
  • t.s. - Wednesday, January 7, 2015 - link

    Agreed! Reply
  • Solandri - Tuesday, January 6, 2015 - link

    That is exactly what the PCMark benchmarks on page 2 are for. They do a bunch of things which simulate home, office, or creative tasks and boil it down to a single number.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PCMark
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, January 6, 2015 - link

    The benchmarks I see are video encoding, compression, and some photoscan benchmark. Not really the same as using it as an office computer. It would also be nice to see these systems compared to a cheap desktop system with a Celeron or Pentium. Reply
  • silverblue - Wednesday, January 7, 2015 - link

    I'd like to see a test that exposes the JPEG acceleration in Temash/Kabini; surely a valid usage scenario given the image-heavy nature of the Internet.

    Both the CI320 and CA320 confuse me. The former is hamstrung by having only one DIMM (Bay Trail supports dual channel at 1333MHz) and the latter has an astonishingly pedestrian CPU but actually costs more to buy. The top Mullins APU is far faster and wouldn't use any more power, so perhaps we'll see one in the not too distant future? Also, adding in an extra DIMM to the CI320 to test for any difference in performance would be very interesting.
    Reply
  • Libertysyclone - Tuesday, January 6, 2015 - link

    I see there is a spot for an IR sensor, is that built in? I didnt see it on the specs sheet Reply

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