ZOTAC have been dabbling with HTPCs for a long time now and we’ve loved what they’ve done in the past. However, this time they seem to have outdone themselves by giving a new meaning to the word ‘nano PC’. Today we have with us, their newly launched ZBOX nano XS AD11 Plus, their smallest ZBOX to date. Despite its size, it barely compromises on features and functionality so lets see how good it really is.
Design and Build
Don’t be fooled by the size of the box, the actual product is deceptively small and can literally, fit in your pocket. The nano XS is built really well and is very light so it can easily be stashed inside your bag or purse even. ZOTAC has gone with the similar design styling we’ve seen on their previous offerings so it’s recognizable as a member of the ZBOX family. The glossy top hides the green circular power LED that lights up when powered on.
The front facing ports
In the front we have the power button, multi-card reader, USB/ESATA, microphone and headphone jack. ZOTAC has cleverly included the SPDIF connector within the 3.5mm headphone jack itself so if you need digital audio, you simply use the optical cable with the bundled adapter… very clever. There are exhaust vents on either side of the nano XS to keep the temperatures in check.
The assortment of connectors
The rest of the ports are located at the back and include the the power plug, HDMI, two USB 3.0 ports, LAN and two more USB 2.0 ports. As is the case with all ZOBOXs, you get a USB Wi-Fi ‘n’ dongle, IR receiver and remote, power adapter and the drivers and utilities disk and manuals. The nano XS sits well above the surface thanks to four rubber feet and is VESA mountable as well with the supplied bracket. As always, ZOTAC has come through once again, offering very good build and design with the new nano XS and great set of accessories in the box.
The ZBOX nano XS is powered by an AMD E0450 APU, the same one we saw in the ZBOX AD04 sometime back. This is a dual-core CPU running at 1.65GHz and packs in an integrated Radeon HD 6320 GPU. Due to the limited size of the nano XS, there’s only one DIMM memory slot and ZOTAC ships the AD11 with 2GB of DDR3 RAM. Instead of a standard SSD, you have a mSATA 6Gbps connector and ZOTAC bundles a 64GB SSD along with it. While this is not the most capacious storage solution, it’s more than enough for Windows and basic programs. If you wish to store your movies and other data, then we recommend getting an external 3.5-inch hard drive or a portable drive.
An idea of just how small it is
Looking at the size of the device, we’d say ZOTAC has done a hell of a job in pulling it off. The ZBOX is just as powerful, if not faster, thanks to the SSD and yet, it’s smaller than any of its other siblings. The one thing that’s missing is the OS, so you’ll have to buy Windows separately or install a free Linux distro. This was done in order to keep the costs down. ZOTAC includes drivers for Linux as well on their CD so you won't have to go hunting around the internet.
We’ve compared the ZBOX nano XS to their own previous offering, the nano AD10 Plus, which was powered by an AMD E-350 APU. After a quick install of Windows 7 Ultimate and the drivers, we were all set to test this puppy out. Even during the course of benchmarking, the nano XS ran warm but never got too hot. This is good as it shows that if it’s placed inside your media center cabinet, it won’t overheat and risk damaging the components inside.
Not a bad performer
The PC is quick and responsive thanks to the SSD and programs load quickly. The bundled Wi-Fi adapter comes in handy when you wish to stream movies to your TV in the living room as you don’t have to deal with Ethernet cables, snaking around the edge of your walls. This machine is so ridiculously small, you’ll sometimes forget where it is. You can place it anywhere you want and it won’t be an eyesore. As expected, the E-450 perfoms better than its predecessor and along with the SSD, it’s quite a bit faster in all the tests. This isn’t really meant for gaming although you can play some of the older 3D games.
The bundled remote
The nano XS is primarily designed as an HTPC and that’s what it does best. Install XBMC and plug in the IR receiver and you’re all set. If you’re going to use it as an HTPC then we suggest you make XBMC load on startup and you’ll never have to reach for a keyboard and mouse. Since the nano XS also sports SPDIF-out, you can use it with your surround sound system as well. Needless to say, the onboard GPU handles 1080p videos like a dream. In fact you could run multiple streams of 1080p video and the CPU will be able to function normally. You can’t really beat AMD when it comes to integrated graphics.
The ZOTAC ZBOX nano XS AD11 Plus retails for Rs.25,400, which we feel is a very good price considering the whole package and just how tiny it is. You could build a mini-ITX based HTPC yourself but that will turn out to be more expensive and you’ll never be able to build one this small, so considering that, we’d say ZOTAC has priced it well. If you’re looking for the smallest PC you can find that will do all your basic computing tasks and more, then the ZOTAC ZBOX nano XP AD11 Plus is about as good as it gets.
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