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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  • KateH - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    I would be very curious to hear more about the GPU rebranding situation... why would a 1280-shader GM204 on an MXM card be a 970m in a laptop but a 960 non-M in a SFF? Why would Nvidia/Zotac go to the trouble of editing the VGA BIOS and drivers to make this GM204 show up as a 960 when there are already loads of MXM 970m's that are functionally identical to this aside from re-badging? The OEM GPU re-branding situation is ridiculous; Zotac/Nvidia have created a doubly confusing situation where this card could be easily confused for either a significantly-slower GM107-based GTX 960m (that's itself a rebadged 860m) or a slightly-slower GM206 GTX 960 that has the potentially-important HEVC decode that's actually not present in this "960". Reply
  • KateH - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    And while I'm on a rant, re-badging between generations is ridiculous too- but I know by now that's a losing battle that's only getting worse. FFS. Reply
  • mapesdhs - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    A lot of that going on by all sides, but it's hard to discuss without enraging rival armies of haters and fanboys. We'd be a lot better off if nobody did it. What really bugs me is the massive performance overlap of newer lesser models vs. older models. The naming system allows one to infer that a newer card will have a particular level of basic performance, but the reality is often very different. I benchmarked a 650 Ti recently, was amazed to find it often failed to beat an old GTX 460. Reply
  • lmcd - Tuesday, September 29, 2015 - link

    I mean the 650 Ti should be like 2/3 the power consumption at most, no? Reply
  • KateH - Tuesday, September 29, 2015 - link

    Yeah, something like that. ~100-120W for a 650Ti vs ~150-170W for a 460. The 660 is in the same power envelope as the 460 and should outperform it by a fair margin Reply
  • rtho782 - Tuesday, September 29, 2015 - link

    You're perfectly right. Having a separate mobile product stack made sense when mobile gpus were way behind desktop ones, now they use the same silicon, less so.

    I think we should have the same product names and tiers for both, perhaps use the "m" suffix in cases where the clockspeed is much lower in the laptop variant.
    Reply
  • KateH - Tuesday, September 29, 2015 - link

    I kinda wonder if it's not time to do away with the "M" suffix for GPUs altogether and move towards segmentation based on power, like what Intel has done with their K/S/H/Y/U suffixes. Low-power MXM/onboard GPUs are by no means strictly in the realm of notebooks anymore- AIO and SFF computers are using them more and more. And looking at AMD/NV's product stacks, "desktop" GPUs cover ~15W-250W (with all but the top-end being under ~150W) and "mobile" GPUs cover ~15W-125W- that's a whole lot of overlap. Reply
  • ruthan - Tuesday, September 29, 2015 - link

    Better than Macmin, but otherwise is better build own, even if MXM is not possible to use by us second category people.. Reply
  • adithyay328 - Thursday, October 1, 2015 - link

    Those specs actually almost give my mid tower desktop a run for it's money-almost. Reply
  • aj654987 - Friday, October 2, 2015 - link

    Well, for the alienware alpha with the 860m and the T series processors (Haswell 35W), the CPU's are almost all GPU limited, even the i3's. So there is room for a higher powered GPU.

    With going broadwell, the lowest desktop CPU is 65 watts so far, which is probably too high for that small case, so their only choice is a 15 watt mobile chip.
    Reply

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