ZOTAC’s frequent refresh cycle of the ZBOX has made it one of the most sought after HTPC solutions in the market. With every new APU or Atom CPU launch, we get a new version of the ZBOX, which keeps this lunchbox-sized PC up to date with the current trends. The latest one is the AD06-Plus and features AMD’s recent E2-1800 Zacate APU. Let’s see how much has changed since we reviewed the AD04 Plus. 

Design and build
ZOTAC hasn’t made any cosmetic changes to the ZBOX, so externally, it looks pretty much identical to any of the previous units. The glossy front hides the green power ring that lights up when powered on and the rear houses vents for air intake. The ZBOX can be placed horizontally with the four thick rubber feet supporting it firmly above the surface or you can place it vertically by using the bundled stand. You can even VESA mount the PC with the included mount, so ZOTAC has you covered on all fronts. As part of the bundle, you also get a media centre remote, DVI to VGA adapter, a USB IR blaster and an antenna for the Wi-Fi. 

Will go well with your home decor

Will go well with your home decor

The ports are laid out all around the ZBOX for easy access. The front houses the power button along with the power and hard disk activity LED, a USB port, memory card reader and the headphone and microphone jack. There’s also a USB port on the top near the exhaust vents. Coming to the rear, we have four more USB ports (2x USB 2.0 and 2x USB 3.0), Gigabit Ethernet, DVI-I, HDMI, Optical SPDIF out, power jack and the Wi-Fi antenna. ZOTAC has gotten rid of the DisplayPort that was present in the AD04 Plus.

Front panel ports

Front panel ports

Rear panel ports

Rear panel ports

You get thumbscrews holding the rear cover in place, so upgrading the unit is not a hassle. Upon opening it, we see a standard 320GB 2.5-inch hard drive held in place with a thumbscrew and a single 2GB DDR3 memory module. You can add another one in the future in the second slot as well. 

Features
The E2-1800 may seem like a completely new APU going by the naming convention alone, but it’s just a slightly faster E-450 APU. It uses the same two Bobcat CPU cores that are clocked at 1.7GHz and a slightly faster GPU that’s been renamed to HD 7340. This is same as the HD 6320 found in the E-450, except for a slightly higher clock rate. The chipset supports a maximum of 8GB DDR3 RAM up to 1333Mhz, so there’s good room for expansion. There isn’t any slot for an mSATA SSD drive as the 2.5-inch hard disk takes up most of the space.

ZOTAC has managed to cut costs by not pre-installing an OS with the AD06 Plus. This can be a little inconvenient if this is the only PC at home, but it also gives you the option of installing the OS of your choice. If you don’t want to shell out more, you can always go for a free Linux distribution if all you’ll be doing is media playback and web usage.  We would also like to see all the drivers being bundled in pen drives rather than DVDs, especially since the ZBOX does not have an optical drive.

Performance
We used Windows 7 Ultimate as our OS of choice and went ahead with our suite of benchmarks. The new E2-1800 is not all that faster compared to the previous E-450 since it’s essentially the same APU. We got a score of 2310 in PCMark Vantage and a decent 4350 in 3DMark Vantage, with the ‘Entry’ preset. Windows 7 runs smoothly on this APU and you can easily use heavy applications like Photoshop as well, with relative ease. The ZBOX runs silently and does not heat up much. This is because the APU itself has a very low TDP of around 18W, so it can easily double up as a download rig as well.

Compact and easy to carry around

Compact and easy to carry around

If you compare this performance to the Nano XS, then it falls a bit short due to the hard disk onboard instead of an SSD. If you don’t need too much storage space and have a media server set up at home, then you could opt for installing an SSD instead.

Verdict and Price in India
The ZBOX AD06 Plus is priced at Rs 20,999, which is quite a bit lower compared to the AD04 Plus we reviewed a while back. This makes it good value for those looking for an all-in-one HTPC solution. In case you have a spare hard drive lying around at home,  you can always opt for the non-Plus variant, which costs Rs 15,999.

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