Sandy Bridge upgrades come to Zotac mini PCs

While we were most excited to see 7-series Mini-ITX boards at Zotac’s CES showcase last week, the company also had a number of interesting Zbox systems in its hotel suite. In addition to AMD E-450 and Intel Cedar Trail updates to several systems, the Nano line is set to get an infusion of Sandy Bridge via the Celeron 867, a dual-core part with a 1.3GHz clock speed.

The Celeron’s 17W TDP is a good fit for the Nano’s palm-sized enclosure, and it should offer better CPU performance than the AMD and Via processors currently available in other versions of the system. Despite its diminutive size, this ID61 model is set to offer a decent array of expansion ports, including a couple of USB 3.0 ports and an eSATA jack. Zotac has added a digital S/PDIF output to the Nano’s headphone port, and the SD slot now works with the latest SDXC cards.

If you don’t need a nettop quite that small, the full-sized Zbox line is also getting a fresh dose of Sandy Bridge. This time, it’s the Core i3-2330M, which will slot into the Zbox ID82 alongside the same HM65 Express chipset used in the Nano. With a 2.2GHz clock speed, the 2330M is quite a bit faster than the Nano’s Celeron CPU. Both systems feature Bluetooth 3.0 and 802.11n Wi-Fi.

We haven’t been particularly impressed with the Wi-Fi reception of the integrated antennas in previous Zbox systems, but there’s good news on that front; Zotac is moving to external antennas for its Zbox systems. The company is also bundling an MCE-compatible remote across the board, including with barebones systems sold sans hard drives and memory. This remote has already been mapped by the XBMC community, ensuring easy setup for home-theater PC applications.

The Zbox ID82 and Nano ID61 are expected to become available around the CeBIT show, which runs from March 6-10. Our tour didn’t end there, though. We also saw a chunky industrial PC that would look pretty swanky in the right living room.

Who wouldn’t take that over glossy black plastic? Alas, Zotac will probably pursue another direction for future Zbox designs. In fact, the company had a concept on display that harkens back to its Blu-ray designs.

The concept drops the optical drive, resulting in a compact system lined with the usual array of expansion ports. Zotac isn’t sure whether the design will make it to mass production, but it would confirm that the collection of vinyl-wrapped Zboxes on display isn’t due for a retail release.

Wrapping the systems is easy, the company says, but there are no plans to roll out versions of the Zbox decked out in skulls, snakeskin, or miniature $100 bills.

Comments closed
    • rephlex
    • 8 years ago

    I’ve just bought a Zotac Nano AD10, which also has an external antenna for Wi-fi, and have found its reception to be quite poor. Other people have found the same. Zotac know about this issue but don’t appear to be doing anything about it. Fortunately the wireless card is apparently easy to replace, although I think doing so voids the warranty. I intend to do that ASAP.

    • UberGerbil
    • 8 years ago

    So I glanced at that first pic and my first thought was “Why is the card slot labelled in Chinese?”

      • Palek
      • 8 years ago

      I had almost exactly the same thought, except it went something like “Isn’t it a bit sloppy of Zotac to be showing one of their Chinese-labelled models at CES?”

      That jumble of logos does make the chassis look a bit too busy and therefore less professional. It’s a bit jarring, like seeing pink microphone and green headphone jacks on the front of an otherwise sleek, stylish aluminium case.

      [EDIT]Oh, look, Zotac even provided an example of ugly, coloured front audio ports with that slim case design concept! It’s the attention to little details that separate first-class designs from the rest. Why is it so hard to get these things right?[/EDIT]

    • NeelyCam
    • 8 years ago

    Active cooling = no sale.

    • TO11MTM
    • 8 years ago

    Wake me up when they fix the problems their E350 boards have had with HDMI for 6 months…

    • Deanjo
    • 8 years ago

    That heatsink case model just cries to be used in a automotive audio system.

      • vargis14
      • 8 years ago

      It does look like a car stereo amp .But i don’t think it would like hot summer days with 140+ degree interiors

      • mutarasector
      • 8 years ago

      Or at a POS terminal in a ‘hostile’ pizza shop environment.

    • stdRaichu
    • 8 years ago

    Did that last pic remind anyone else of [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6i-nMWgBUp0<]Cave Johnson[/url<]?

    • shank15217
    • 8 years ago

    The AMD graphics is a better fit for the nano still. Maybe with Ivy Bridge based nano would be better.

    • dpaus
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]there are no plans to roll out versions of the Zbox decked out in skulls, snakeskin, or miniature $100 bills.[/quote<] Damn; they'd have made a fine media server for my Alice Cooper collection. Wasn't the cover art for 'Billion Dollar Babies' a set of dollar bills on snakeskin? Anyway, as far as that Celeron system goes, I think I'll wait and see what a 17W Trinity gives me.

      • mutarasector
      • 8 years ago

      [quote<]I think I'll wait and see what a 17W Trinity gives me.[/quote<] My thought exactly.

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