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 ZBOX MAGNUS series. Starting with the ZBOX MAGNUS EN980 (Intel Core i5-6400 / GTX 980), they have been on a regular release cadence - in mid-2016, we saw the EN1080 with an updated Pascal GPU, and the CPU upgrade to Kaby Lake in the EN1080K came to market in Q3 2017.

The third-generation flagship ZBOX MAGNUS fixes some of the shortcomings that were identified in the EN1080 with respect to the system design. Main amongst them is the use of a better thermal solution for the M.2 SSD. We also have a CPU upgrade from Skylake to Kaby Lake (The Core i7-6700 is replaced by the Core i7-7700, while retaining the same B150 chipset). Based on these updates, the performance of the EN1080 and EN1080K should be quite similar, except for the benefits offered by the slightly faster clocks in the Kaby Lake CPU. In this review, we will take a look at the performance of the EN1080K and also determine the areas where Zotac can improve in the upcoming products in this lineup.

Introduction

The Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN1080K came into the market approximately 6 - 8 months after the release of the EN1080. The claims for the flagship have continued to be 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 EN1080K continues to be the same as the previous versions (EN980 / EN1080) (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 reviews for the EN980 and EN1080. The EN1080K retains the industrial design of the EN1080, with its front panel HDMI port to enable easy hook-up of VR systems. The fancy LED lighting (controllable via the Spectra utility) is also available.

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.

We received the barebones version of the ZBOX MAGNUS EN1080K. In order to complete the build, we used the same components that were used in our EN1080 build - 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 EN1080K, they are capped at 2400 MHz (compared to the 2133 MHz for the same SODIMMs in the EN1080). The Toshiba OCZ RD400 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 EN1080K Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-7700
Kaby Lake-S, 4C/8T, 3.6 GHz (Turbo to 4.2 GHz), 14nm+, 8MB L2, 65W TDP
Memory Corsair Vengeance CMSX32GX4M2A2666C18 DDR4
18-18-18-36 @ 2400 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
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 Enterprise FCU x64
Pricing $1700 (barebones, when reviewed)
$2351 (as configured, No OS)
Full Specifications Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN1080K Specifications

Internally, the EN1080 / EN1080K 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 EN1080 and the EN1080K are the same.

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN1080K 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 EN1080K when we come to those sections. Note that we are using a new updated benchmark suite, and the number of benchmarks with comparison points is limited.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN1080K
CPU Intel Core i7-7700 Intel Core i7-7700
GPU NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (8 GB) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (8 GB)
RAM Corsair Vengeance CMSX32GX4M2A2666C18 DDR4
18-18-18-36 @ 2400 MHz
2x16 GB
Corsair Vengeance CMSX32GX4M2A2666C18 DDR4
18-18-18-36 @ 2400 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) $1700 (barebones)
$2351 (as configured, No OS)
$1700 (barebones)
$2351 (as configured, No OS)
Performance Metrics - I
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  • Sane Indian - Tuesday, January 02, 2018 - link

    Why Mini PCs cost more than a Laptop or proper desktops?
    https://www.acer.com/ac/en/US/content/predator-mod...
    Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Tuesday, January 02, 2018 - link

    Because it is even MORE tech, more power hungry, with more cooling then any laptop, in a smaller space, with a smaller market? Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, January 02, 2018 - link

    Even lower production volumes than laptops, meaning each sale has to cover a larger chunk of the total R&D budget. Reply
  • nerd1 - Tuesday, January 02, 2018 - link

    It does NOT cost more than equivalent laptop (7700 and GTX 1080) Reply
  • Rookierookie - Tuesday, January 02, 2018 - link

    On Newegg, a Clevo laptop with i7-8700K, GTX 1080, 32GB RAM, 512GB SSD+1TB HDD goes for $2449. So pretty darn close. Reply
  • JoeyJoJo123 - Tuesday, January 02, 2018 - link

    "free" keyboard, mouse, display included with the Clevo, as well. And the thinner profile more easily fits into a backpack or carrying bag, as opposed to a cube-like shape. Reply
  • cosmotic - Wednesday, January 03, 2018 - link

    At least the zotac doesn't look like a tragedy like the Clevo. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Wednesday, January 03, 2018 - link

    The Zotac EN1080K goes for 1910€ in Germany. Cheapest 1080 laptop is and ASUS ROG with a 6700HQ, 512GB SSD and 16GB RAM. 6-core 8700 based Schenker Laptop (Clevo rebrand) goes for 2820€. The Zotac with 512GB SSD and 16GB RAM is 2200€, plus OS, so maybe 2250. But for that I would bet you get better cooling and much better IO options. Sure, you lose the built in display and peripherals, but they serve different use cases. If you want a luggable, portable solution, why look at this thing. If you want a stationary thing that is out of the way, why look for a laptop with a large footprint. Reply
  • Flunk - Wednesday, January 03, 2018 - link

    It's mostly because the Clevo is enormous. You pay for the engineering to get something this small. Reply
  • Flunk - Wednesday, January 03, 2018 - link

    This is also a bit of boutique system, they're not going to sell many of these. Reply

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