As far as the small form factor (SFF) PC segment goes, ZOTAC is the only company that comes to mind. The ZBOX has become synonymous with consumer SFF PCs and we have seen many iterations of the ZBOX in the past. This time around ZOTAC have decided to address entry level gamers with their new ZOTAC ZBOX ID45 Plus.
Design and Build
ZOTAC has been using the same design for its regular sized ZBOXes since the last couple of years. So you have the same glossy black plastic box covered with a silver-coloured plastic edges. The ZBOX fits on a housing which allows it to stand vertically beside your monitor. You can even attach the ZBOX behind your monitor using VESA mount screws. The top of the ID45 Plus has air vents along with a USB 3.0 drive. The front portion has a power button, an SD card slot, a USB 3.0 port, status indicators and an audio and microphone jacks. On the rear side, from the top to bottom you have a WiFi port, an optical out, two LAN ports, two USB 2.0 ports, a DVI port, an HDMI port and finally the power in port. Build quality is like any other ZBOX as the material used is the same.
The ZOTAC ZBOX ID45 Plus is powered by an Intel Core i3-3227U, which is a dual-core hyper-threaded processor having a clock speed of 1.9GHz. It is an Ivy-Bridge part based on the 22nm manufacturing process. We would have certainly liked to see a Haswell chip considering Ivy Bridge is a generation old. The ID45 Plus comes with 4GB DDR3 RAM. On the storage front you have a Samsung 500 GB drive.
The highlight of the ID45 Plus is the presence of the NVIDIA GT 640 dedicated graphics solution. Although technically, the GT series is meant to be a high-end multimedia graphics solution, ZOTAC is looking at that market as well as those users looking at entry level gaming on this ZBOX. The lack of an OS on this ZBOX is again disappointing. Also another interesting thing is the presence of dual LAN ports on the rear side, which makes it ideal for office use as well.
The ZOTAC ZBOX ID45 Plus does not come with any pre-installed OS, so we first installed a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit). We ran our standard set of tests which is a mix of synthetic tests and real-world tests. PC Mark 7 gave an overall score of 2074 and CineBench R11.5 gave a score of 1.91 with an OpenGL score of 26.74. These scores are in line with what you will get out of a U series processor. The Core i3 3xxxM series processors give slightly higher scores.
As for the real-world testing, compressing a 100MB assorted file using 7Zip took 107 secs whereas video encoding a 1-min MPEG file to x.264 MPEG-4 (2nd pass) took 101 secs. Intra-drive transfers (6GB test file) give speeds of 39.26 MB/s for sequential transfers and 37.12 MB/s for assorted file transfer.
You can customise the ZBOX if you so wish. There are two thumb screws which open the base flap of the ZBOX to reveal what’s inside. As you can see from the image above, majority of the portion is covered with the cooler for the graphics solution. There is a Samsung 500GB HDD on top and below it you have the 4GB DDR3 RAM module.
We ran a couple of games on the ID45 Plus to see how the GT 640 graphics responded. While it was difficult to play full HD games at playable 30fps or higher rates, we noticed at on reducing the resolution you can get better frame rates. Battlefield 3 gives around 30 fps at 1600×900 with anti-aliasing (AA) disabled. Bioshock Infinite was also playable at 1600×900 resolution on Ultra as well as Medium settings – giving 28fps and 50fps respectively. Resident Evil 5 gave a good 67.4 fps at 1280×720 pixel resolution and Medium setting. So if you are not trying to be very ambitious with resolution and settings such as AA and AF, then you can comfortably play some older titles at HD resolution. The GT 640 also ensures that applications such as Adobe Lightroom run fine.
HD playback was flawless and the CPU utilisation was hovering around the 20 per cent mark. Although the ZBOX ID45 Plus comes with a UltraHD (4K) playback stamp, we couldn’t test out this claim as we don’t have a 4K display in our labs.
Verdict and Price in India
The ZOTAC ZBOX ID45 Plus is an interesting product specially because of the presence of the NVIDIA GT 640 GPU which allows you to play older titles at lower resolutions. Although we wouldn’t go so far as to call this a gaming PC, the ID45 Plus does give you an option to indulge in entry level gaming if you so wish. It can be used as a home PC, an HTPC, an entry-level gaming PC or even an office PC.
But like all the previous ZBOXes we have seen in the past, this one too comes at a high price, especially when you consider the fact that you will have to spend money to install the OS. At a budget of Rs 41,000, you can easily build a good gaming rig, although not in such a compact size. But then again, if you are spending Rs 41,000 on the ZBOX, you expect a PC which allows you to game comfortably at full HD resolution at the very least. Unless of course that is not what you are looking for, in which case, ID45 Plus is not even an option, since you can get a regular PC for much less.