Mini PCs have long been available in multiple sizes. Now, you can get them in multiple shapes. Zotac's new Zbox Sphere OI520 Series eschews the cuboid designs that permeate the industry in favor of a unique, orb-like chassis. See for yourself:
Well, that's different. The shape reminds me of Google's ill-fated Nexus Q media streamer. But the Zbox Sphere does more than just streaming; it's a full-fledged Haswell machine with an ultrabook-class Core i5-4200U processor. The dual-core chip runs at 1.6GHz with a 2.6GHz Turbo peak, giving the Sphere sufficient horsepower for most desktop tasks, media duties, and even light gaming.
Although the processor is soldered to the motherboard, users can add their own memory and storage. There are two SO-DIMM slots for memory, one mSATA slot for mini SSDs, and one 2.5" bay for notebook drives. The dual storage options should allow folks to run a solid-state cache or system drive alongside secondary mechanical storage.
At the back, the Sphere has loads of USB ports, a couple of digital display outs, dual analog audio jacks, and a memory card reader. There's another USB 2.0 port on the side of the chassis, and the Gigabit Ethernet jack is complemented by 802.11ac Wi-Fi support. Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity is included, as well.
We're still waiting on pricing details, but we can tell you the Sphere will be available in two configurations. One is a barebones machine sold without memory and storage, while the second is a Plus model that comes with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB, 5,400-RPM mechanical drive.
Update: Zotac tells us the barebones version will sell for $399.99, while the Plus variant will be $499.99.