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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  • aj654987 - Friday, October 2, 2015 - link

    It would perform better with a 35 or 45 watt haswell desktop processor but they probably went U series because it also takes up less space being soldered on the motherboard and significantly less heat at 15 watt. So its all a trade off. Reply
  • Rick540 - Sunday, October 4, 2015 - link

    Why not just buy a decent laptop for that price and connect it to your TV? Then you'd have a laptop to carry around when you need it. Looks like all that is anyway is a laptop in a computer case. Reply
  • Teknobug - Monday, October 5, 2015 - link

    Exactly, for nearly $1000 you can get a good laptop that can be used anywhere and still be hooked to the TV or monitor with keyboard/mouse as your main PC if you want, and most laptops around that pricetag has an i7 or high end i5 processor rather than the moderate performing U variant. Reply
  • CknSalad - Monday, October 5, 2015 - link

    Hopefully zotac releases a 35/45w skylake cpu. I really don't like the i5-5200U cpu that comes with it. If it had a 35/45w skylake cpu, this would be a really good portable PC. Reply
  • Wolfpup - Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - link

    Huh. HUH. So really this is sort of like Alienware's Alpha? But with a better GPU and worse CPU? And similarly has a user replaceable hard drive slot and RAM?

    This thing looks very very interesting as a possible notebook replacement for me in the future. Cheaper than the equivalent power in a notebook, I think. Hmm...
    Reply
  • Wolfpup - Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - link

    I'd like a quad CPU though...stick a 45 watt CPU in something like this and we'd be in business...I mean make it bigger if need be, I don't care... Reply
  • Haravikk - Thursday, October 15, 2015 - link

    What's the idea behind the 4x HDMI ports on this? The article and specs don't mention any as being inputs (which would be handy for passthrough) so why so many outputs? I could understand two as it would give the option of having one for video and one for audio, or for two screens, but are there many people planning to run four screens off of a box like this?

    It seems decent enough, but still far too expensive for what you get IMO, even accounting for the small size.
    Reply
  • mikato - Wednesday, October 28, 2015 - link

    This isn't quite what I'm going for but I do like seeing more of these mini PCs. Keeping them coming!

    Here's what I want:
    -Mini PC that normally sits by my TV for HTPC purposes, but is dead simple to bring to a friend's house
    -HDMI, DisplayPort
    -Integrated graphics on CPU - no discrete wanted since this will not be used for heavy gaming, only light gaming. AMD APUs fit the bill with stronger CPU than this for faster multipurpose usage and plenty strong graphics for any kind of video playing, streaming, light gaming. Also price is decent.
    -Big hard disk (I like SSDs better too, but I want to chuck all my media on this thing so I can bring it anywhere, and play it on anybody's TV. I probably won't bother trying to use a small SSD for OS like I do in my other machines.)
    -quiet (duh)
    -power efficient (duh)
    -midrange laptop price? I'm willing to build my own if there is a nice mini PC case around.
    -Not required- Bluray/DVD - Like this Zotac box, I decided to not require this since support on computers is bad. Windows removed it (I think). OS X didn't have it. You can't make HD Blurays of your own videos that actually play (basically). So I'll just stick with media files and streaming... and I do have a Bluray player anyway. It would be sweet to include it and consolidate one more living room item, but no biggie.
    Reply

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