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Up close and personal

I really appreciated the flat top and bottom of the Magnus EN1070. You could set instruction manuals or even a monitor on top. The EN1080K is still flat on the top, but I would never lay things on top of it for fear of restricting the radiator's airflow. The inability to set things on top of the Zbox Magnus EN1080K is a minor annoyance, but it really does put a damper on the variety of places you could put it in your home. I wouldn't want to put it in an entertainment center with narrowly-spaced shelves, for example. That might inconvenience some folks eyeing this type of chassis as an uber-console or an HTPC.

Moving across the front of the machine from left to right, you've got a big round power button (encircled by a power LED), an HDMI 2.0 port, an SD card slot, a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A port, a microphone jack, a headphone jack, and finally the USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port. I still haven't picked up any USB 3.1-capable devices, so I can't actually test the speed of those ports. However, I can confirm that they both work, at least.

The HDMI port on the front of the machine is obviously intended for use with a VR headset, and I have to say that while I appreciate this feature on a big and heavy tower PC, it seems a bit unnecessary on a mini-PC. At least, if nothing else, it should keep cabling nice and neat for VR rigs. You lose access to one of the two HDMI ports on the back of the machine when using the front HDMI output, just like with desktop graphics cards that offer front HDMI outputs.

Speaking of the rear of the machine, here we are. Over on the left you can see the paired power plugs. In the center we have a four-high stack of USB 3.0 ports. Just to the right of that, you have dual DisplayPorts and twin HDMI connections, and then to the right once more we have two Gigabit Ethernet jacks. A pair of RP-SMA connectors for the included Wi-Fi antennas flank the rest of the ports on either side.

Flipping it over, you can have a look at the bottom of the EN1080K. Here you can see the various regulatory labels as well as the air intakes around the edges of the base. The EN1080K sits up on four rubber feet embedded into the aluminum thumbscrews that hold on the base. This arrangement seems critical to the EN1080K's cooling prowess: if you were to lose or remove those thumbscrews for any reason, the EN1080K would have a much harder time drawing in air. The vents do extend around the corners of the base to the outer edge, but all the same, I'd try to keep the feet on. This is not a machine you want to starve for air.

Of course, if you lose those thumbscrews you'd have a hard time keeping the machine together. The base doesn't latch in or snap in to the rest of the machine at all—only those four thumbscrew-feet hold it on. Remove them, and the base lifts right off. Underneath, you'll find direct access to the machine's 2.5" SATA drive bay, an M.2 slot, and two DDR4 SODIMM slots. Like every other Zotac mini-PC I've ever used, installing the storage and memory is effortless.

And here she is all fixed up and ready to go. Unfortunately, I didn't fully disassemble this machine like I did with the EN1070. Given that it's not our hardware to break, and given that I would have had to void the owner's warranty to totally tear it down, I decided to forgo the final step. Rest assured that if this were my machine, I'd have ripped it apart, de-lidded the desktop CPU, and taken pictures of the whole process for gerbils to grouse about.

However, for anyone that finds this review wondering how hard it would be, I can say that the construction of the outer casing seems fairly simple. Tiny Philips-head screws hold the aluminum plates to an internal steel frame on which all of the hardware is mounted. Remove those screws and the outer casing should more or less just fall away from the frame, accounting for the cable that no doubt connects the front panel button and lights to the motherboard. Taking the EN1080K apart further than that will be a bigger production, though.