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A peek under the hood
Cracking open the Zbox is shockingly easy.

There are two thumbscrews on the left side the machine. Undo those, slide off the bottom panel, and voilà. There's even a little groove with a finger grip to make the process easier.

Despite featuring a Sandy Bridge CPU and a discrete GPU, the Zbox ID42 Plus only has a single fan. The fan sucks air from the bottom of the system (which is raised slightly on rubber feet) and exhausts it from the left side. If you've got the Zbox propped upright, then cool air comes in from the side and blows out the top. That's sensible, given that hot air is less dense than cool air and therefore tends to rise.

Oh, and yeah, you've got easy access to the 2.5" hard drive.

The drive is mounted on a bracket that comes off with a single thumbscrew. Removing the drive con bracket uncovers the system's dual SO-DIMM slots. On our ID42 Plus, as we noted, only one of the slots is occupied. There's nothing stopping you from adding a second memory module, however. You probably should do just that. By today's standards, enduring single-channel RAM is like a forced stay in an Amish commune.

(All right, maybe not. But maxing out the processor's memory bandwidth is still a good idea.)

There's our board. I hope you enjoyed that shot, because in the process of putting the mobo back into the machine, I broke the header that connects it to the chassis' power button and activity lights. Oops. Turns out the header sticks out from one of the inner walls a little, and the motherboard catches on it when pushed straight down.

Extracting the motherboard in the first place is just as scary. Connectors are dug in on both sides and refuse to break free unless you squeeze and bend the enclosure. You need a wrench, too, because the standoff that accommodates the hard drive's thumbscrew also doubles as a mounting bolt for the mobo. Oh, and there are a few mystery headers you'll want to keep track of.

Happily, removing the motherboard is almost completely pointless unless you're a PC hardware reviewer or a Zotac engineer. Everything you might want to upgrade, like the memory, hard drive, and Wi-Fi adapter, is easily accessible even with the mobo securely bolted down.

...but since we already have the thing out, there's no harm in peeking under the heatsink, is there?

The heatsink is held in place by four screws. A copper heat pipe runs between the processor and GPU, drawing heat into the fin array.

Here's a close-up of the chips. The large, rectangular one is the Intel CPU. The small, square one is the Nvidia GF119 graphics processor, which is flanked by four DDR3 memory chips. Both the CPU and GPU are soldered onto the motherboard, obviously, so upgrades are out of the question.

Put together, the two chips have a combined power envelope of around 46W—17W for the processor and 29W for the GPU. The processors run cool enough to allow the Zbox's fan to switch off completely when the system is at idle. An inactive Zbox does emit a faint whine, presumably because of the hard drive's motor. The fan only kicks in when CPU- or GPU-intensive applications are run. Even at full tilt, it produces a toneless whoosh that's quite tame and reasonably easy to tune out.

Okay, enough nosing around. Let's load up an operating system and see how this puppy handles.