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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  • SpartyOn - Tuesday, September 29, 2015 - link

    Apparently you either don't know what I'm talking about or have never used Steam In-Home Streaming. I'm not saying don't have a PC in the living room - in fact, I'm saying just the opposite - but make it an inexpensive media streaming box rather than a full-blown gaming system.

    I have two SFF media PC's, one in my living room and one in my basement, so I understand the need that these boxes fill. All I'm saying is that with Steam In-Home Streaming, that HTPC doesn't need to be a full-fledged gaming machine and your money can be better appropriated elsewhere.
    Reply
  • donthatethesun - Tuesday, September 29, 2015 - link

    I think this is more for people that don't necessarily want to have a desktop or multiple systems. It can function as their go to in the living room and for when they travel. Reply
  • lmcd - Tuesday, September 29, 2015 - link

    Can't bring the desktop on a plane easily. There's your niche. Reply
  • tarak73 - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    I am waiting for the same solution with DDR4 setup... Reply
  • rtho782 - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    The 970m is a GM204 (desktop 970/980) with 1280 shaders instead of 1024 in the desktop 960 (gm206), 48 rops instead of 32, and, crucially, a 192bit memory bus instead of 128bit, so it should be a nice chunk faster than the desktop 960. The review seems to indicate that it being a 970m is a negative? Reply
  • KateH - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    Yeah I was confused by that too. The only advantage I can see of the 960 vs 970m is that GM206 supports hardware decoding of some additional codecs that GM204 doesn't. Reply
  • rhx123 - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    The lack of DisplayPort is a deal breaker. Very silly omission, with 4 HDMI Ports, it's not like space was at a premium. Reply
  • lmcd - Tuesday, September 29, 2015 - link

    I likewise found this very disappointing. Particularly when none seem to be HDMI 2.0 (or am I wrong?). Reply
  • KateH - Tuesday, September 29, 2015 - link

    All GM20x GPUs support HDMI 2.0 AFAIK, so I presume they are. Reply
  • meacupla - Tuesday, September 29, 2015 - link

    Lack of DP is disappointing, but why is it a deal breaker?

    Did you want to use this with a G-sync monitor?
    Reply

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