ZOTAC ZBOX ID80 Plus Reviewed
ZOTAC kicked the new year off at CES with the announcement that would be unleashing a new line of ZBOX mini PCs in both AMD and Intel flavors. We’ve seen a review of the AMD E-450-based AD04, but if Intel Atoms are more your speed, then the ID80 may be worth considering. Under normal circumstances, an Atom-based system would be hard-pressed to keep up with a Fusion-based system for HTPC duties, but the ID80 has a trick up its sleeve. The ZBOX ID80 comes equipped with a 2.18 GHz Intel Atom D2700 processor paired with an NVIDIA GT 520M GPU. That Nvidia GPU means the ID80 should offer considerably better performance where it counts for HTPC fans. The ZBOX ID80 Plus is a pre-assembled version of ZOTAC’s systems, and comes equipped with 2GB of memory and a 320 Gb hard drive, but Zotac also offers a barebones, non-Plus version for those who want to bring their own memory and storage.
The Zotac ZBOX ID80 Plus Mini PC is an energy efficient system utilizing the latest Intel Atom D2700 processor with an NVIDIA GT 520M GPU. The Zotac ZBOX ID80 Plus Mini PC also comes with a 2GB DDR3-1066 SO-DIMM memory module, as well as a 320GB 5400rpm HDD, requiring an OS installation to be functional right out of the box. For display connectivity, the Zotac ZBOX ID80 Plus MiniPC has a dual-link DVI and an HDMI 1.4 port so you can connect it to your HDTV or 3DTV.
Since I’ve been out of the
Since I’ve been out of the HTPC game for quite some time now, I have question for CableCARD gurus… would this Zotac box be enough horsepower for say the Ceton USB quad tuner? I know Ceton’s min spec say a 2GHz dual-core CPU, and the Atom D2700 is technically fast enough in raw GHz and is a dual-core (plus 2 hyperthreads for a total 4 virtual CPUs), add the dedicated NVIDIA GPU to it and it seems like it might be viable for CableCARD recording and some Blu-ray watching. Though I guess maybe changing the HDD to a 7,200 RPM model might help general system responsiveness while recording 4 things at once. Whatcha’ think?
Most of these boxes have low
Most of these boxes have low end NICs that eat CPU under any significant load so it should work under limited conditions, but you’re cutting it pretty close if you plan to use the box as a server.
Knowing your objectives would help know if this type of system is right for you (not having played with this box it’s impossible for me to say for sure if it will work).
Ah yeah, I forgot about the
Ah yeah, I forgot about the NIC being a weak point. At the moment I’m just tossing around hypothetical ideas for what amounts to basically just an STB replacement. I’m toying around with the idea of ditching my bedroom STB [not a DVR] ($8/month fee on my Comcast bill) and going with a quad-tuner media center PC, ($0/month for the first CableCARD rental from Comcast instead). However getting too fancy with an HTPC kills any value proposition for switching. While at least in the beginning, it would basically a standalone device, but I do want the possibility to have it serve a second TV in the future. It’s not going to be in the living room (due to WAF) since it isn’t really a perfect cable company DVR replacement since it doesn’t do On Demand. But as more of a secondary project it could be on our less used bedroom TV, and I figure with a quad tuner and plenty of HDD space I can have it record everything we like and have everything available in the bedroom anyway, so there’s very little need for On Demand.
You could start with a SFF
You could start with a SFF HTPC like this one, then swap it into client duties if you decide to scale out your system. FWIW, Netflix obsoleted our need for OD; no one even noticed when I returned the STB.
Yeah I’m not worried about
Yeah I’m not worried about streaming or DVD/Blu-ray playback for the PC, I have a Panasonic BD player ecosystem going right now, I have 2011 Panny players in the living room and bedroom already. So this really would be basically a way to replace the STB with something that can do much more for a little bit less (as far as monthly fees go). So do you think from the specs for the newer nettop style Atom like the ID80 uses would be usable as a quad-tuning machine? ie. would recording 3 or 4 things at once while watching a recording be doable, or do you think it might get bogged down? Also I wonder about the 5,400 RPM drive for responsiveness in that situation.
The Lenovo IdeaCentre Q180 looks pretty nice too, it’s a similar system (with a AMD Radeon HD 6450 instead of an NVIDIA GeForce 520) but with the nice Lenovo mini keyboard and trackball controller included.
The newer dual-core Atoms
The newer dual-core Atoms should work OK, and as long as you have one client (i.e. just the server) reading the streams I would expect that you’d be OK w/ the 5400 RPM drive as long as it supports NCQ and has a decent sized buffer. That said, I would probably go for something with more headroom (like a SNB Pentium) unless you’re absolutely, completely, totally sure that you won’t want to take advantage of features like commercial skipping that really take advantage of the platform.
Yeah, so I don’t think I can
Yeah, so I don’t think I can cut my performance margins that low… that just seems like asking for trouble… been there done that back in circa 2007 with HD DVD and Blu-ray playing on Vista and an Athlon 64 X2, I don’t want a repeat of the sometimes issues, some times it works fine, but it’s pushing the system a bit too hard for perfectly smooth system response, etc.