In the course of our coverage of mini-PCs, we have seen offerings from vendors such as ASRock, GIGABYTE and Zotac targeting the gaming market. Usually, 'mini' doesn't fit the requirements of consumers in this space, but the appearance of power-efficient high performance GPUs have made the offerings in the gaming mini-PC space quite interesting. Zotac has been creating mini-PCs with a gaming focus by tying a mobile NVIDIA GPU with a Core U-series Intel CPU for a couple of generations now. Today, we will be taking a look at the Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN970 - a system combining a Broadwell-U CPU with a NVIDIA Maxwell GM204 mobile GPU.

Introduction and Setup Impressions

The ZBOX E-series targets the gaming market. In the previous years, the E-series adopted a tried and tested industrial design (for example, the chassis of the ZBOX EI750 was very similar to that of the PCs in the ZBOX ID series). The MAGNUS EN970 adopts a radically different industrial design. The unit is not as small as the NUCs, even though the height is similar. The area of the top side is around the same as that of the ASRock Vision series. However, the absence of an optical drive slot enables a chassis with considerably lower thickness.

The specifications of our Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN970 review configuration are summarized in the table below.

Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN970 Specifications
Processor Intel Core I5-5200U
Broadwell-U, 2C/4T, 2.7GHz, 14nm, 3MB L2, 15W
Memory 2 x 8 GB DDR3L @ 1600MHz
Graphics NVIDIA GTX 960 (as per drivers),
'a rebadged GTX 970M (hardware-wise)'
Disk Drive(s) 128 GB OCZ Vector
Networking 2x 1GbE Realtek RTL8168 +
1x1 Intel Wireless-AC 3160 802.11ac
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 (As configured) USD $978, Barebones is $800
Full Specifications Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN970 Specifications

The Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN970 kit doesn't come with any pre-installed OS, but does come with a CD and a read-only USB key containing the drivers. In any case, we ended up installing the latest drivers from Zotac's product support page. In addition to the main unit, the other components of the package include a 180 W (19.5V @ 9.23A) adapter, a US power cord, 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 MAGNUS EN970 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 EN970 when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN970
CPU Intel Core i5-5200U Intel Core i5-5200U
GPU NVIDIA GTX 960 (3GB) [GTX 970M] NVIDIA GTX 960 (3GB) [GTX 970M]
RAM Panram Intl PSD3L1600C118G2VS
11-11-11-28 @ 1600 MHz
2x8 GB
Panram Intl PSD3L1600C118G2VS
11-11-11-28 @ 1600 MHz
2x8 GB
Storage OCZ Vector
(128 GB; SATA 6Gb/s; 25nm; MLC)
OCZ Vector
(128 GB; SATA 6Gb/s; 25nm; 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) $978
Barebones is $800
$978
Performance Metrics - I
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  • boe - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    Thanks - I don't think that meets my 4K, HDMI 2.0a or audio requirements (pretty much my only requirements) Reply
  • SpartyOn - Tuesday, September 29, 2015 - link

    It does output UHD 4K @ 30 fps which should satisfy most consumer TVs on the market (unless you're rich enough to afford a 4096 × 2160 panel), so why do you need HDMI 2.0a?

    Also, as I stated, there is an open PCIe x1 slot for adding a sound card that meets your requirements, all at this inexpensive price point.

    Jeesh, just trying to help here, bud.
    Reply
  • boe - Tuesday, September 29, 2015 - link

    I'm putting in a new 85" TV with HDMI 2.0a and I'll want to be able to take advantage of high fps 4K 3d, DTS-X and Dolby Atmost Reply
  • jbrizz - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    What is the high end audio you're talking about? You only need to stream 8 ch PCM over HDMI for movies or multichannel music, or if you're an audiophile you use an asynchronous USB DAC for music. Any PC can do this. Reply
  • boe - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    DTS-X and Dolby Atmos Reply
  • SpartyOn - Tuesday, September 29, 2015 - link

    Oh, and I'll also point out that if you can afford a Dolby Atmos sound system, you really shouldn't be worrying about what the cost is for the right HTPC to be hooking it up to... Reply
  • Teknobug - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    Most TV's smaller than 55" takes up around 35W. This particular PC (CPU is 15W) shouldn't take anymore than 25-30W. I care about power consumption and this isn't half bad considering that, I have an i3 4010U NUC and under full load it only takes 19W. Reply
  • jbrizz - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    My 55 inch Samsung H6400 uses 60w with the backlight on 5 and 120w with the backlight on 15. Reply
  • Teknobug - Tuesday, September 29, 2015 - link

    jeez 120W on max backlight? My Sony Bravia 55" uses 52W with max backlight (I think that's 10) and my Sony Bravia 48" uses 37W, I normally use 6 or 7 backlight because it's next to a window where the sun shines in the afternoon, but 10 is hard on the eyes. Reply
  • meacupla - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    Is this the same thing as Zotac's steambox SN970?

    If it is, this was the one that caught my eye as it really stoodout from the crowd.
    Reply

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