The ZBOX brand name has become synonymous with small form factor PCs and ZOTAC has been coming out with refreshes at regular intervals. Within the ZBOX category, there are more demarcations in the form of ZBOX Nano, ZBOX Nano XS, ZBOX Blu-ray and so on. The ZBOX Nano series has been an interesting segment especially considering the compact form factor. So far we have only seen entry-level processors being bundled with these ZBOXes which allow you to do regular tasks such as surfing the web, working on office suites, watching HD movies and so on. But with the ZBOX Nano ID65 Plus, ZOTAC is trying out something new by giving you a powerful processor.
Design and build
Zotac ZBOX Nano ID65 Plus
ZOTAC haven’t really changed their design philosophy as far as the ZBOX Nano goes. If placed side by side with a previous generation Nano, one wouldn’t really be able to tell the difference without powering them on. You have the same glossy black and silver colour tone that is a norm with the ZBOXes. A blue coloured light ring is present under the top cover which adds a bit of colour to the otherwise monochrome box. The top surface being glossy will retain smudges, but it can be cleaned off easily. The plastic used in the construction is quite sturdy and doesn’t flex much on mild pressure.
The ports are located on the front and rear side with the left hand side edge having the cooling vents. The power button is located in the front and it has a tiny indicator which glows green when the ZBOX is powered on. There are two USB ports on the front with a 7-in-1 card reader and the audio and headphone jack. On the rear side you have a LAN port surrounded by four USB 3.0 ports and you also have an eSATA port between the USB 3.0 ports and the Wi-Fi antenna out on the extreme right hand side. As far as display ports go, the ZBOX Nano ID65 Plus has one HDMI port and one DisplayPort. It is powered by a 65W adapter.
The ZBOX Nano ID65 Plus measures 127mm x 127mm and the height is around 45mm. The Nano can easily fit into the palm of your hand and occupies little space on your desk. It comes with a VESA mounting bracket if you plan to wall-mount it. You can even mount it behind your LCD monitor if you do not want it to be visible.
ZOTAC ZBOX Nano ID65 Plus comes in a compact form factor
The ZBOX Nano ID65 Plus is powered by an Intel Core i7-3537U which is a dual-core 22nm Ivy Bridge part with support for hyper threading. While the processor is clocked at 2GHz, the Turbo Boost setting takes it all the way to 3.1GHz on single-core and 2.9GHz when both the cores are used. This Ivy Bridge part also has the Intel HD 4000 graphics, which is relatively powerful compared to the older Intel HD 2500 graphics. As compared to the older processors such as the Intel Atom and AMD Brazos parts, the Core i7-3537U is a huge upgrade.
On opening the Nano ID65 Plus, you will find a Toshiba 500GB hard drive, a Kingston 2GB laptop RAM stick, an Intel Centrino Wireless N-2230 adapter. On the other side of the board, you will find a cooler section which covers the Intel Core i7-3537U processor.
On the front side you have two USB 2.0 ports, an SD card slot, audio and mic jack and the power button
The Nano offers onboard Wi-Fi adapter which supports 802.11 b/g/n specifications. ZOTAC also bundles in an antenna to improve the signal strength. For those of you who want to replace the HDD with an mSATA SSD, ZOTAC also offers an mSATA storage bracket. This bundle lacks a Windows Media Centre remote control though which was seen in previous ZBOXes. You will not get any bundled OS with the device though.
On the rear side you have four USB 3.0 ports, a LAN port, a Wi-fi antenna-out, HDMI port, DisplayPort, an eSATA port and the power port
Initially we installed a Windows 8 OS on the ZBOX. We faced some issues with a couple of benchmarks such as PC Mark 7 and Resident Evil 5. But the USB 3.0 ports did not seem to be working despite installing all the latest drivers. The bundled CD had two USB 3.0 drivers - one from Intel and the other from Renesas. While the Renesas driver installed, the Intel one gave an error. Despite installing the Renesas drivers, we still found that none of the USB 3.0 ports were usable. A quick online check revealed some Windows 8 compatibility issues. Maybe ZOTAC should upgrade the USB 3.0 drivers for Windows 8 users.
Due to the issues faced with the Windows 8 installation, we installed Windows 7 Ultimate and reinstalled all our benchmarks. With Windows 7, we had no issues with the drivers at all.
Since the Nano ID65 Plus houses an Intel Core i7-3537U processor, we were expecting much better performance as compared to the previous Nano iterations. Cinebench R11.5 gave a multi-core rendering score of 2.63 which is impressive considering the older ZBOXes sporting the Atom and Brazos processors would barely cross 1.00. Transcoding a video file using AVIDemux took 57 seconds and compressing a 100MB file using 7Zip at 256-bit encryption and ultra settings took 70 seconds. Both these scores are faster than many Ultrabooks out there in the market. As far as the processor performance goes, the ID65 impresses.
When it comes to graphics performance, the Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics can handle older games. For instance we got around 35 FPS with Resident Evil 5 at 1280x720p with medium settings. At lower resolutions some games are easily playable. 3D Mark 11 gave an overall score of 986 which is again quite decent.
We played some 1080p clips and checked for CPU utilisation which never crossed 5-8 percent. So you can have some tasks running in the background while enjoying your movies. The ID65 houses a 5400RPM Toshiba drive which we divided into two partitions to test for the intra-drive transfer speed. We got around 43.2 MB/s for a single file transfer and 22.1 MB/s for multiple file transfer within two partitions.
ZOTAC ZBOX ID65 Plus is an impressive small form factor PC with a high end Core i7 processor. It aced all the benchmark tests as compared to the older ZBOXes we have tested. With the Nano ID65 Plus, ZOTAC has managed to put together a proper workhorse PC which can tackle heavy applications and tasks quite well apart from being an HTPC. The real-life tests proved that the Nano ID65 Plus is comparable to many ultrabooks out there.
But its biggest drawback is the pricing. It comes at a price tag of Rs. 51,999. Even the barebones model - the Nano ID65 which does not come with HDD and RAM comes for around Rs. 45,999. It is quite difficult to recommend the ID65 Plus at these price points. Sure it has a powerful processor, but the 50k plus is better invested in a powerful laptop or a mid-range gaming PC.
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