New barebones Zbox has Blu-ray drive, USB 3.0 connectivity

We're particularly fond of Zotac's Zbox barebones nettops for their low prices, ease of assembly, and sensible baseline hardware specs. A couple of key ingredients have always been missing, though; the Zbox systems we've tested have lacked optical drives and USB 3.0 connectivity. The former is rather important for anyone looking to put together a home-theater PC capable of playing Blu-ray movies, and the latter is a much needed step up from the painfully dated USB 2.0 standard.

Zotac has addressed both omissions with a couple of fresh Zbox offerings that come wrapped in an all-new enclosure. Behold, the Zbox Blu-ray HD-ID33 in all its slender, brushed aluminum sexines:

As you might have guessed, that's a slot-loading Blu-ray drive up front. The optical drive can also burn CDs and DVDs, and you'll find one SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port along the front edge and another at the rear. Under the hood, the HD-ID33 features a dual-core Atom D525 CPU, a next-gen Ion GPU, Gigabit Ethernet, and 802.11n Wi-Fi. As with other Zbox systems, you add your own memory, hard drive, and operating system. The ID33 has two DDR2 SO-DIMM slots, a 2.5" hard drive bay, and Mini PCIe slot if you want to toss in a TV tuner. An ID34 model is also available with 2GB of memory and a 250GB hard drive already installed. Both versions come with Blu-ray playback software from Cyberlink.

The press release doesn't mention when we can expect these new systems to hit store shelves or how much they might cost. However, we will be taking a closer look at the ID33 very soon. Stay tuned.

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